» Kabul Diary »
Dudes And The Dog
The men were armed to the teeth but it was clearly the dog who was calling the shots. The American bodyguards protecting Afghan president Hamid Karzai are straight out of a comic book. Wrap-around sunglasses, guns strapped to every limb and the surly politeness which is supposed to convey "Cross me and I'll kill you". Getting into the palace to interview Mr Karzai is an intimidating affair. I'm not sure I've ever been groped as much in my life (I now know what it feels like to be a teenage girl on a rush hour bus in Delhi). But then suddenly the ritual humiliation ground to a halt and a large man with a large gun and an even larger stomach (the cream of the security crop are apparently making big bucks in Baghdad) wandered over sheepishly and made his confession. "Er, I'm sorry sir," he said in a southern drawl, "but we weren't expecting you so early and the dog doesn't start work until eight". My polite suggestion that they wake him up nearly lost me my front teeth, so instead we just kicked our heels in the palace yard while the dog dozed. He was responsible for making sure we weren't smuggling in explosives and eventually sauntered around the corner, sniffed our equipment and wandered off for a breakfast biscuit. These trained killers' bonding with their four-legged friend was kind of touching and a vast improvement on their previous behaviour. Until recently, journalists were almost being thrown against a wall and frisked when they turned up for a Karzai press meet. Many were so furious that they took it out on the first unarmed person they met. That was usually the president. Someone in his press team finally seemed to work out he might get a fairer hearing from the hacks if his bodyguards stopped acting like we were out to steal the palace silver.