Holiday Cheer, Pompoms, Bombs and Refugees: Thanksgiving 2001 in Afghanistan
by Marc W. Herold
Departments of Economics and Women's Studies
Whittemore School of Business & Economics
University of New Hampshire
POSTED NOVEMBER 28, 2002 --
The Pentagon has reported that 70 U.S. warplanes struck Afghanistan on Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 2001, using 50 carrier-based jets, 10 long-range bombers, and 10 land-based strike aircraft. The warplanes struck Taliban-held areas in the north, east and southern parts of the country, the Afghan Islamic Press reported at the time. The assault targeted Kunduz in the north, Kandahar in the south and Paktia in the east. U.S. fighter jets bombed the hills surrounding Kandahar, according to AIP.1 They also hit the Asman Zai district in Paktia Province, which was reported to have been a stronghold of Taliban minister Jalaladdin Haqqani.2 Three people in Kunduz were wounded by the continued airstrikes.
On November 22, 2001, refugees photographed by Dusan Vranic and Reuters streamed out of the Khanabad area, which had been carpet-bombed, passing in front of Northern Alliance (NA) troops. The NA was massing for their final attack upon Kunduz, at the time the Taliban's only remaining stronghold in northern Afghanistan.3 Prior to the attack terrified persons had streamed out of the US-targeted area.
The Associated Press reported at the time that,
"Refugees streaming out of Kunduz by foot, donkey and car dashed for cover [as mortar fire erupted], some women in the head-to-toe white shrouds flapping around them. Many women, confused, dived into a ditch, exposed to the incoming mortar fire, their fingers tearing desperately at the dirt as shells pounded around them. "The United States is bombing and the people are escaping," said refugee Mahmedi, breathless and too much in a hurry to stop to talk. "The city is empty." Refugees said they were escaping both the anger of foreign fighters trapped in the city and the U.S. bombs."4
On the evening of November 22nd 2001, as part of a 'morale-boosting visit', a troupe of six cheerleaders from the Miami Dolphins football team, performed for U.S. troops and pilots in the hanger bay of the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the northern Arabian Sea5. The cheerleaders' tour diary for November 22nd 2001 reads:
"DAY 3 - Toured the ship and met 1000's of sailors. Signed bombs headed for Afghanistan, watched fighter jets take off & land and even helped out in the galley."6
Aaron Glover, 24, of New York, who sang prayers and watched the Dolphins spectacle, said
"It's good for the people's morale, with all the fighting that's going on."7
Prayers were read, the Dolphin cheerleaders in blue hot pants, waved pompons, and danced to James Brown's "Living in America."
Existence and cultures separated by...the learned, time, and hopes.
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1. Deutsche Presse-Agentur [November 22, 2001 at 13:50 PST].
2. "U.S. Planes Bomb Taliban Strongholds," Reuters 11/22/01 at 02:59
3. Photo by Dusan Vranic, A.P., from The Guardian, at : http://www.guardian.co.uk/gall/0,8542,603769,00.html . For an extraordinary set of photos on "Displaced Afghans On the Move," see http://www.geocities.com/khola_mon/Afghan/Afghans.html . The lower left photo comes from http://www.tribuneindia.com/2001/20011123/photos/pages/23photo16.htm
4. "Taliban Agree to Surrender Kunduz," Associated Press [November 22, 2001].
5. Photo from U.S. Navy Atlantic Fleet homepage, at: http://www.atlanticfleet.navy.mil/tr-dolphcheer.htm
6. From the Dolphin tour notes, at : http://www.miamidolphins.com/cheerleaders/behindthescenes/behindthescenes.asp?docid=5610
7. Associated Press, op. cit.