NATO on the boardwalk: allies chill out at Afghan base

Thu Jun 25, 2009 6:55am EDT
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By Peter Graff

KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Down on the boardwalk, a knot of Romanian soldiers are sitting under the umbrellas at the French patisserie, sipping non-alcoholic Becks beer in the shade.

At Tom Hortons, the Canadian donut place, U.S. airmen are drinking coffee, surfing on the wireless internet on their laptops and listening to Beyonce on British Forces Radio.

The only people sitting in the scorching sun are the bright pink British officers, a dazzling glare shining off one sweaty bald pate.

Super-secret special forces guys stroll by, glowering coolly in baggy shorts, T-shirts and floppy sun hats, "under cover" in their tell-tale woolly beards.

Welcome to Kandahar Air Field, or KAF, the most cosmopolitan NATO base ever assembled inside a combat zone, where troops from a host of countries relax after missions on a boardwalk that feels like a multi-national beachside resort.

The United States and many of its allies have been fighting shoulder-to-shoulder in Afghanistan and, to a lesser degree Iraq, for almost eight years.

In both war zones, large bases are usually run by a single country, bringing restaurants, shops and amenities to make the troops feel like home.

But the headquarters for NATO forces in southern Afghanistan is a bona fide alliance mish-mash.   Continued...