Mobile Phone?

Dutch Army Sergeant Major Jan, 2nd Platoon, E-company, Battle Group-7, Task Force Uruzgan, talks to an Afghan village elder about the needs of his community. Jan also discussed the importance of Afghan people getting involved with local government to improve quality of life issues. The platoon was on a 3-day International Security Assistance Force mission conducting foot patrols through villages to meet the Afghan people. ISAF-photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class John Collins, U.S. Navy.

Source: NATO,

Most of this picture seems to be bogus. Propaganda. The stylish sunglasses of the sergeant, how he sits, his body language in general. The machine gun in the back, within reach. He emanates a kind of baseless supremacy. According to the legend of this picture, he is talking about “needs for the community”. But does he really talk about mobile phones? The sergeant was on a three-day mission conducting foot patrols through the villages to meet the people. The young man to the right should be a ‘village elder’? What do you think is he thinking? In contrast to his discussion mate, he seems to be completely at peace with himself. He listens carefully. Obviously, he is even a bit amused, but not too much to be impolite.

Aghanistan is now at war for almost 30 years. It has been a playground first for the late Soviet Union and the US American CIA, then the Taliban, then G. W. Bush’s war on terrorism. We know that before that, Britain completely failed in getting control over the proud people there in at least three wars, around 1840, 1880, and at the end of WWI.

The German novelist and poet Theodor Fontane wrote, in 1859, the following ballad (and I hope that some not familiar with the German language get at least a vague feeling of what is it about):

Das Trauerspiel von Afghanistan

Der Schnee leis stäubend vom Himmel fällt,
Ein Reiter vor Dschellalabad hält,
“Wer da!” – “Ein britischer Reitersmann,
Bringe Botschaft aus Afghanistan.”
Afghanistan! Er sprach es so matt;
Es umdrängt den Reiter die halbe Stadt,
Sir Robert Sale, der Kommandant,
Hebt ihn vom Rosse mit eigener Hand.
Sie führen ins steinerne Wachthaus ihn,
Sie setzen ihn nieder an den Kamin,
Wie wärmt ihn das Feuer, wie labt ihn das Licht,
Er atmet hoch auf und dankt und spricht:
“Wir waren dreizehntausend Mann,
Von Kabul unser Zug begann,
Soldaten, Führer, Weib und Kind,
Erstarrt, erschlagen, verraten sind.
Zersprengt ist unser ganzes Heer,
Was lebt, irrt draußen in Nacht umher,
Mir hat ein Gott die Rettung gegönnt,
Seht zu, ob den Rest ihr retten könnt.”
Sir Robert stieg auf den Festungswall,
Offiziere, Soldaten folgten ihm all’,
Sir Robert sprach: “Der Schnee fällt dicht,
Die uns suchen, sie können uns finden nicht.
Sie irren wie Blinde und sind uns so nah,
So lasst sie’s hören, dass wir da,
Stimmt an ein Lied von Heimat und Haus,
Trompeter blast in die Nacht hinaus!”
Da huben sie an und sie wurden’s nicht müd’,
Durch die Nacht hin klang es Lied um Lied,
Erst englische Lieder mit fröhlichem Klang,
Dann Hochlandslieder wie Klagegesang.
Sie bliesen die Nacht und über den Tag,
Laut, wie nur die Liebe rufen mag,
Sie bliesen – es kam die zweite Nacht,
Umsonst, dass ihr ruft, umsonst, dass ihr wacht.
“Die hören sollen, sie hören nicht mehr,
Vernichtet ist das ganze Heer,
Mit dreizehntausend der Zug begann,
Einer kam heim aus Afghanistan.”

Do people learn from history?

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4 Responses to Mobile Phone?

  1. John Collins says:

    In response to the question on my photograph, it was not posed nor is it Propaganda. The stylish sun glasses are ballistic and protect your eyes from the bright sun in the desert as well as shrapnel that tends to fly from IED’s. As far as the cell phone comment goes, most village elders either have a cell phone or know someone who does. The soldier put his rifle down and away from him in order to show a non- aggressive stance toward the elder so a peaceful discussion could occur. I was with the Dutch people (a peaceful Nation) for 4 days living in the field. If you want to see the rest of the photo’s and get a clearer picture as to what is going on in Afghanistan, please feel free to visit our website at

    Thank you for your time.


    John Collins
    Photojournalist, USN

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