2011: Funny goings on leading up to Afghanistan

Koh-e-Baba-Tangi


There’s been a couple of troubling things happen recently that have a vague connection to my upcoming trip to Afghanistan.

The first is the Greg Mortenson exposé. Greg was something of a cult hero to many, including myself, due to his work as the Director of the Central Asia Institute building schools in rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. He has written two books; Three Cups of Tea and Stones for Schools- both have become world wide bestsellers. Greg is now accused of dealing fraudulently with the money donated to the CAI, of fabricating the number of schools built by the organisation and also fabricating some of the details in his books. Overnight his hero status has been stripped from him.

But regardless of whether these claims are true or false (and more and more it seems they are true) Greg has done an enormous amount of good for these desperately poor mountain regions. But will this be enough to see the CAI rise from the ashes? If its the Institutes death knell, this could also have a detrimental and far reaching effect on other charitable aid organisation relying on donations from patrons who may no longer be so trusting..

The other matter is the revelation of Osama Bin Laden’s hidey-hole and his subsequent death. I am flabbergasted! Abbatobad is just up the road from Islamabad, on the main road north to China (the Karakoram Highway) and is the centre of all things military in Pakistan. It is a very nice town- lots of trees, military-manicured lawns and neat barracks behind white picket fences. It’s been de rigueur on my recent climbing expeditions to Pakistan to stop in Abbatobad for a early morning cup of tea at a little stall under a big leafy tree before succumbing to the heat and bumps of the drive ahead. By my calculations this tree is no more than 500m from the Bin Laden residence! Probably the closest I’ve ever been to a really famous person!

In the meantime the Afghanistan Expedition is falling into place quite quickly now thanks to Ahmed Gyasi of Wakhan Expeditions and David and Anjurad James (Mountain Unity). The count down is on!