A reader writes:
Contrary to Ackerman's report, Bagram really isn’t that big. Seriously. I live there, and I’ve been there for more than a year. It’s crowded, surely, but it is not a “massive” base. The crowding, IMO, is more a result of shitty planning on the part of base operations than because it has such a massive number of forces in it (everybody is packed into about two miles along Disney. The rest is more like an industrial park). The traffic is, as Ackerman notes, absolutely ridiculous on Disney, but not because there is some overwhelming number of vehicles. Rather, it’s because there are several crossing areas - the largest being between the PX on the west side of Disney, and Kohle DFAC, the main chow hall directly across the street on the east side of Disney - that cause traffic to have to stop for pedestrians for several minutes at a time. During off hours, Disney is clear.
FT Hood in Texas - that’s massive. I thought Camp Victory in Iraq was pretty big too, especially considering it butts right up against several other bases that in reality are all one base, they just have different names. Victory and it’s sister bases *dwarf* Bagram.
I’m all for keeping Obama’s feet to the fire on our mindless efforts in Afghanistan, but let’s not devolve into hysterics and hyperbole.
There’s a lot of people there, they fly a lot of flights in and out, but massive it is not. The local community extends right up to the external fences - literally. During my morning runs I pass Afghan children out tending to their flocks as they graze what little greenery there is. I can hear the call to prayer from the mosque just outside the western side of the base, and I can see the mud buildings of the local population from where I sleep at night. The base is also swarming with local nationals who work on post.
My main point is that living on Bagram does not exactly give one a sense of being enmeshed inside some sort of imperial safe zone the way Victory did. I feel acutely aware that it is a small island separated from the bad guys by only a chain link fence in a lot of areas.
(Photo of Bagram by Flickr user allgoodpeople)