It seems that the latest piece of “must-have kit” for Afghanistan is a pair of bomb-proof underpants. The shorts, woven from the latest light-weight ballistic fibre, protect a soldier's wedding tackle from being shredded by a Taliban landmine. I don't know how well they work.
I seem to recall hearing that some British bomb-aimers in the Second World War stuffed car hub-caps down the front of their trousers to protect their manhood from stray Ack-Ack shrapnel as they lay in the nose of their aircraft. I also remember sitting on a spare flack jacket for much the same reason during one of my own visits to Afghanistan.
What didn't occur to me was that I might be putting the lives of the soldiers of who took me out on their patrols there at risk. Just over a year ago a Canadian woman journalist “embedded” with Canadian troops in Afghanistan called Michelle Lang was killed by a massive landmine which blew up the armoured car she was travelling in. Four army reservists from Alberta died in the same explosion. The vehicle was also carrying a female Canadian government civil servant, Bushra Saeed, and it now seems that it was targeted by the Taliban because of the presence on board of the two women. The women in civilian clothing had been chatting and taking notes in a village near the stretch of booby-trapped road and may well have struck Taliban supporters among the villagers as quite possibly “high value” targets of some kind. The landmine was triggered by a command wire after another armoured car had passed over it. It takes quite lot of buried explosive to destroy a heavily armoured LAV III vehicle and I'd be surprised if the local people the women were chatting with earlier didn't know about the landmine. The journalist had been taken there because it was supposed to be a showcase community for what was possible in Afghanistan if only the Taliban could be expelled. I won't go into the fact that more people can name the journalist killed than can remember the name of even one of soldiers who died with her- Garrett Chidley, George Miok, Zachery McCormack, and Kirk Taylor. I just hope lessons have been learned from this tragedy. I know it's made me think.