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Restoration of the Kabul Golf Club (Afghanistan)

Restoration of the Kabul Golf Club to include Book Project
by Roger Bacon

Mohammad Afzel Abdul showing a passing Pershmerga fighter the proper grip on the golf club.

Local Golf Pro Mohammad Afzel Abdul showing a passing Pershmerga fighter the proper grip on the golf club.

[Editor’s note: Is it better to live in a nation dedicated to war and civil conflict, or is it better to live in a nation dedicated to growing strong communities?

Sport, whether it’s cricket, golf, football or any other sport, provides a bridge between different cultures and gives humanity common-cause.

One only needs to remember the heart-warming story of the Jamaican bobsleigh team of 1988 Olympics fame to see how sport can enthrall a nation — with millions of people from all over the world cheering for them — even their competitors cheered for them at one point.

It was a moment in time that displayed the best in humanity and inspired Jamaicans with self-confidence, and was the basis for the 1993 hit film, Cool Runnings.

We also note the excitement that the sport of cricket brings to countries, citizens, and world leaders, with Presidents and Prime Ministers from formerly warring nations sitting together at games cheering their respective teams on. Sometimes, billions of people are watching those matches, from almost every timezone in the world.

The same can be said for football (called soccer in North America) where practically every person on the planet knows the teams, Real Madrid, Manchester United and FC Barcelona.

Sport must play a central role in our continuously evolving civilization, and whether that sport is one of the Olympic sports, cricket, football or golf, or any other recognized professional or amateur game, sport unites nations and celebrates the friendly competition between teams and between nation-states. — John Brian Shannon, Editor]

Kabul Golf Club. Located in Qargha, near Kabul. Image courtesy of af [dot]worldmapz [dot] com

Located in Qargha, Afghanistan, a short drive from the Capital, the Kabul Golf Club has served the ex-patriot community in Kabul since its inception. Image courtesy of af.worldmapz.com

Roger Bacon, through his American consulting business HudsonPlatte has embarked on a crowdsourcing effort with Kickstarter.com to fund a book chronicling the history of the Kabul Golf Club from its founding in 1967 through the present day struggle in Afghanistan.

“It has opened and closed with the rhythms of history that have plagued Afghanistan. The communist regime; Soviet invasion and departure; the rise of the Taliban and its association with Al Qaeda; the fall of Kabul to the Northern Alliance and its American Allies and the subsequent international effort to defeat the Taliban and rebuild the country have all taken place on the doorstep of the Kabul Golf Club.”

“It is a symbol of peace and tranquility that perpetually faces existential challenges, and yet it survives. I have made two trips to Afghanistan and played the course many times. It is an amazing story, and one which I want to share with the world.” — Roger Bacon

The Kabul Golf Club has provided a regular game for golfers working in and around Kabul. Most players have had affiliations with Embassies, NGO’s, the press and international military contingents, supporting the course and community financially. Since re-opening in 2004, there have been regular large events, and a steady flow of players.

Kabul Golf Club, Afghanistan

‘Zabi The Caddie’ at Kabul Golf Club, Afghanistan.

Recently however, most of the course’s patrons have been forbidden travel outside of the city, citing security concerns. Once again, the Kabul Golf Club faces a threat to its very existence.

The non-fiction book will highlight the career of Mohammad Afzel Abdul. Abdul teaches golf and manages the scruffy course with sand greens. He began working at the nine-hole (now six-hole) course just prior to the 1979 Soviet invasion, and has survived more than 35 years of constant warfare. His brother Khan, who also worked at the course, was killed by the Taliban in 2012 for his association with foreigners.

The ambitious goals of the funding campaign reflect the complicated and dangerous task of returning to Afghanistan to finish research and writing.

The book will be a visual piece that includes local history and stories from players, most of whom have also participated in the war and subsequent reconstruction efforts. With funding, it is scheduled to be finished and printed in mid-2016.

This project is a critical component of the effort to keep the historic Kabul Golf Club from disappearing into the mist of Afghanistan’s sad history. The licensing, royalties and publicity generated from the book are intended to supplement income lost as a result of the deteriorating security situation.

We believe that peace will eventually come to this starkly beautiful country and its golf course in the shadow of the Hindu Kush. The Dari word on the club’s logo and flag means “peace.”

The Kickstarter Project runs through October 5, 2015, and offers various rewards for participation, all featuring the club’s US Trademark logo.

Please visit the web sites:

Roger Bacon has worked for more than 25 years in the golf business, specializing in corporate renewal and project management. Success in these areas has brought him the title of “fixer.” His work has taken him around the country and his sense of adventure has taken him around the world. He has spent time in two war zones on two continents. The project to restore the Kabul Golf Club to financial security has been self-funded, without assistance from and government or private agency. Eating, drinking, sleeping, working and playing golf as an unescorted guest in Qargha in 2010 and 2011, Roger was always safe, secure and surrounded by friends. Now it’s time to go back.


The Real Story of Afghanistan

by John Brian Shannon | December 4, 2002

How our allies ‘the Mujahadeen’ were so incompetently managed that they eventually became Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other groups bent on wreaking havoc on western civilization.

It’s so easy to defer blame, to assume we are not at fault. There must be some reason our former partners against the Soviets turned against us — to such a degree they now seek the destruction of western society. It’s time to admit that our sudden desertion of the Afghan people at the close of the Soviet/Afghanistan War makes us culpable. In so doing, we helped to bring terrorism on ourselves.

The Afghanistan War was a real war, a fact which is lost on some westerners. In the proxy war that was the Afghan conflict from 1979 to 1989, thousands of Afghani ‘freedom fighters’ or ‘Mujahadeen’ bravely fought the behemoth Soviet Army during extreme weather conditions in a brutal guerrilla war, with little more than blood, sweat, and profound determination.

Yes, Americans, Pakistanis and others contributed food, third-rate rifles and other weapons to the Afghans who were forced to fight an invading Soviet Army, but who really wanted nothing more than to be left alone to live in peace with their families. Yet many of those same families and their homes would suddenly cease to exist after a strike from a Soviet helicopter. So fight they did.

The moment the former Soviet Union announced it was pulling out of Afghanistan, allies of the Mujahadeen, (the U.S., Pakistan, the U.K. and others) abruptly dropped all funding including; food aid/medicine/supplies — leaving the country and its people in a truly desperate situation. The Mujahadeen valiantly and fiercely ejected the Soviet Army from Afghanistan and after using them for our purposes, we just up and left them to a country ravaged by years of war with tons of unexploded ordinance scattered about and unmarked minefields to get maimed in and (we now know that up to) 500,000 people starved to death initially, and we just let it happen.

Almost as many Afghans died from hunger, disease and dislocation after abandonment, as from bullets or missiles fired by the Soviet’s in ten years of war.

‘Your reward for humiliating our sworn enemy is a destroyed country, shattered economy, non-existent infrastructure and a decimated society.’

Could this be why such groups as the Taliban and Al Qaeda formed in Afghanistan? As sure as night follows day, anyone could have seen this coming. It took 12 years, but Osama bin Laden delivered the bill for this appalling treatment of an ally.

Put yourself and your own family in their shoes, if you can. What, a little revenge, maybe? A little rubbing their nose in it? What would you do if your allies suddenly abandoned your families to starvation and disease after you had fought bravely for ten hard years?

A lot of politicians who should have known better, were asleep at the switch on this one.

What should have been done

Imagine if the Mujahadeen had been treated differently by the U.S. at the war’s end. For example;

  • Each Mujahadeen (fortunate to still be alive after ten years or war) paid $10,000. U.S. dollars, as a (token) thank-you for playing their part in repeatedly embarrassing, humiliating and then defeating the Soviet Army (archenemy of the U.S.) over a gruelling ten-year period. This is the same Soviet Army which then had nuclear missiles aimed at every city in North America and Europe.
  • War hero Mujahadeen given a free round-trip and official tour of the Statue of Liberty, the White House, shopping malls, middle class suburbs and U.S. military parade, complete with marching band and fighter jets swooping overhead – dipping their wings in a ‘thank-you’ salute. What an opportunity to showcase all that America, democracy, and the free enterprise system had to offer! Mujahadeen returning home from such a tour would have been the best ambassadors in America’s history. You couldn’t have bought better P.R. in the Islamic world, if you were throwing GOLD BARS into their streets! Instead of the deafening chants of “DEATH TO AMERICA!” to which we have become accustomed since that time, imagine shouts of “WE LOVE AMERICA!” resounding throughout the Muslim world. Democracy in the Middle East would have started in… Afghanistan, of all places! Two-thirds of the Middle East we know today could have been democratic by now – from a single act of visionary thinking.
  • Training from the Americans on how to detect and safely remove land mines. For each land mine ‘turned in’ to a local depot set up for that purpose, say $20.00 U.S. This hypothetical program — even though costing a certain amount of money – would have employed a number of Afghan people and would have cost less than the U.S. Army specialists doing the same job there now.
  • Helping the Afghan economy in other ways, such as placing small Ford or Sony assembly plants in both Kandahar and Kabul. It wouldn’t have taken much. Just enough to allow people enough to work and live, instead of being forced to beg for the charity which never came. Wages there were among the lowest in the world, American and European corporations would have benefited just as much as the Afghan people. The leaders of the western world would have laid the groundwork for a very different and better path than the one we are now on.
  • Leadership, direction and surplus arms to the Mujahadeen and instruction on how to transform their force into a small but efficient, combined army/police force to defend the country. Yes, these things would have cost some money, but not the price we are currently paying! Now we are back, trying to undo the original bad management and it has cost us 1000 times more in lives, dollars and heartbreak than if we had acted honourably back then.

For a relatively small investment and some political will, think of what we COULD HAVE HAD:

a. Political goodwill in a part of the world where the U.S. and the west generally lacks it.
b. A serious start to democracy in the Middle East, which some 13 years later, would have spread beyond the boundaries of Afghanistan if properly managed and overseen.
c. A stable Afghanistan where terrorist groups couldn’t have gained a foothold to launch attacks.
d. A real nation-state and valued member of the international community — not a failed state.

Think of what we WOULD HAVE MISSED:

  1. Terrorism
  2. The ‘War on Terror’
  3. The financial and human costs associated with terror
An appalling lack of vision, a dearth of leadership, callousness, short-sightedness, and abandoned responsibilities — illustrates what has motivated terrorists and shows why we are back in Afghanistan and why we are back in Iraq.

Publishing history:
Originally published in the Christian Science Monitor — December, 2002 (later pulled from publication)
Also published in Le Monde Diplomatique — January, 2003 (published as an article, then pulled and republished as a comment, then the comment was pulled from publication)
Also published at the Middle East Times (Claude Salhani – editor) but the MET was bought by the New York Times and closed down, and subsequently became The New York Times Middle East Edition
This is an updated version of that original article.