WARDAK, Afghanistan -- The most surprising thing, initially, is how difficult and time-consuming even the most basic tasks are -- like getting around between coalition camps, for instance.
I had left Forward Operating Base Airborne -- where I am based with U.S. Army units from the 10th Mountain Division and a French army training team -- for a short trip to a nearby combat outpost, only a few miles away. The objective had been to take water, food, and building materials to the new outpost. The trip, which had promised to be relatively easy and painless, ended up consuming the entire morning, and was both inordinately tiring and far more dangerous than I had expected for such a minor mission.
The problems started as soon as the convoy of armoured vehicles and trucks left the camp's gate. A suspicious object was spotted nearby on the road, and a group of Afghan soldiers -- mentored by the French -- was sent to investigate. Because the Taliban and other insurgent groups cannot take the Coalition on in a straight battle, they have multiplied roadside bomb attacks. These now cause the most Western casulties, leading Coalition convoys to proceed with extraordinary care.