A New Threat In Afghanistan?

Chris Stephen In Bagram


BRITISH marines returning from an operation deep in the Afghan
mountains spoke last night of an alarming new threat - being
propositioned by swarms of gay local farmers.

An Arbroath marine, James Fletcher, said: "They were more terrifying
than the al-Qaeda. One bloke who had painted toenails was offering to
paint ours. They go about hand in hand, mincing around the village."

While the marines failed to find any al-Qaeda during the seven-day
Operation Condor, they were propositioned by dozens of men in villages
the troops were ordered to search.

"We were pretty shocked," Marine Fletcher said. "We discovered from
the Afghan soldiers we had with us that a lot of men in this country
have the same philosophy as ancient Greeks: 'a woman for babies, a man
for pleasure'."

Originally, the marines had sent patrols into several villages in the
mountains near the town of Khost, hoping to catch up with al-Qaeda
suspects who last week fought a four-hour gun battle with soldiers of
the Australian SAS. The hardened troops, their faces covered in
camouflage cream and weight down with weapons, radios and ammunition,
were confronted with Afghans wanting to stroke their hair.

"It was hell," said Corporal Paul Richard, 20. "Every village we went
into we got a group of men wearing make-up coming up, stroking our
hair and cheeks and making kissing noises."

At one stage, troops were invited into a house and asked to dance.
Citing the need to keep momentum in their search and destroy mission,
the marines made their excuses and left. "They put some music on and
ask us to dance. I told them where to go," said Cpl Richard. "Some of
the guys turned tail and fled. It was hideous."

The Afghan hill tribes live in some of the most isolated communities
in the country. "I think a lot of the problem is that they don't have
the women around a lot," said another marine, Vaz Pickles. "We only
saw about two women in the whole six days. It was all very

A second problem the British found came minutes after the first
helicopter touched down at one of the hilltop firebases, when local
farmers appeared demanding compensation for goats they claimed had
been blown off the mountains by the rotor blades. "Every time we
landed a Chinook near a village, we got some irate bloke running up to
us saying his goat has just got blown off the mountain ridge by the
helicopter - and then he demanded a hundred dollars compensation,"
said Major Phil Joyce, commander of Whisky Company, one of four
companies deployed.

As patrols moved away from the landing zones, the locals began
pestering Afghan troops attached to the marines with ever more
outrageous compensation demands - topping off at a demand from one
village elder for $500 (£300) for damage to a tree by the downdraft
from helicopters.

But the marines were under orders to win the "hearts and minds" of
local farmers in what is one of the few remaining Taleban bastions. "I
managed to barter him down to two marine pens, a pencil and a rubber,"
Major Joyce said. "He went away quite happy ."

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