Sunday, August 23, 2009
Our part on election day consisted of checking on the polling sites with our ANA. Unfortunately, we didn’t see as many people out and about as we would have liked, but we did see a fair number of men with purple fingers, indicating they’d voted. Since we didn’t have enough ETTs to accompany the ANA on all the missions they were doing, the ANA actually did a fair number of movements and security on their own, which was a nice culmination to our time here. The ANA proved they can operate without us and hold their own, as they were shot at from afar a number of times throughout the day. Violence in the area was much higher than normal, as was to be expected. Our main base was attacked sporadically with mortars, rockets, and even some direct small arms fire, which was something we hadn’t seen before.
After the polls closed, we went with the ANA to several different polling sites to pick up the ballots. As I watched the ANA throw the plastic crates full (or not so full) of ballots onto the back of their trucks, all the while hoping we wouldn’t start taking rounds, I thought to myself, “so this is how it (democracy and voting) happens”. Unfortunately, many of the cartons for the completed ballots were empty, but we did end up picking up some 14,000 ballots in an area that did not include any real population centers other than small villages. You’d be surprised how many Afghans can fit into those small villages though.
We almost managed to get back to the district center with the ballots without receiving any enemy contact, but…then it wouldn’t be a day in Kunar Province without someone shooting at you from up in the mountains. Normally, we’d stop the convoy and return fire, but on election day we were more concerned with getting the ballots secured in the district center, so despite the burst of machine gun fire and RPG shot our way from about 1000 meters out (much too far for an RPG, which probably why it landed 200 meters short of our truck), we just pushed onward rather than stay and fight. Running away from enemy contact felt like a bit of an ignominious way to end our tour since that was to be our last convoy, but I couldn’t disagree with the decision. Having an RPG rip through the back of one of those pickup trucks full of ballots would not have been good.
It appears the turnout for the election as a whole was low, but in any event we survived it with only a couple of ANA lightly wounded. And now we turn our full attention toward getting out of here as our replacements have arrived and are ready to take over.