Riding with Ghosts

“Doing the Canadian thing: getting the job done without all of the fuss and fanfare.”

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN—We are motoring down a bare-dirt back road in Kandahar Province, a road where NATO patrols never go. This way is better, explains the ghost behind the wheel, because roads without soldiers tend not to explode….

…Nearly every other civilian foreigner has fled Kandahar. Some have taken refuge inside nearby NATO bases, others have retreated to comparably calmer Kabul. But not Team Canada, despite the rash of bombs and targeted killings that torment this crucial southern city. They are working under the radar to rapidly turn tens of millions of international aid dollars into jobs for thousands of Afghan men.

Fighting-age Afghan men, you understand, some of whom, in their desperation for income, would join the only other gainful employers in town — the cash-paying Taliban, or, more likely, one of the corrupt private armies that Panjwaii Tim assesses bluntly as “akin to the Sicilian mafia.”

Never mind hearts and minds, Team Canada is about hands and bellies — a largely invisible aid network on the front line, offering stay-alive sustenance to Afghans who might otherwise plant roadside bombs aimed at sending more Canadian bodies home down the Highway of Heroes…

…“They are the best crew in the country,” the blogger, Tim Lynch, an American contractor who does work similar to Team Canada in safer Nangahar Province, wrote in an email to the Star. “They have balls the size of grapefruit.”


Afghans soldiers during a patrol near Kandahar.

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