Opinion

Remembering Jackson -- In Afghanistan

Kabul -- The sun rises early at Camp Phoenix and in the Morale, Well-Being, and Recreation (MWR) Computer Center soldiers quickly began to openly discuss the news of Michael Jackson's death, as the homefront is never to far away in an age of Internet and cellphones.

In the Camp Phoenix dinning facilities (DFAC), soldiers from France discussed the death of the "Roi du Pop" (King of Pop) during breakfast. A little more than 2,000 French troops are stationed throughout Afghanistan where many help to train Afghan security force. Troops from all nations kept their eyes glued to the breaking news shown on the flat-screen TVs featuring the Armed Forces Network.

"It was drugs," said one young Army Specialist at one table. "I can't believe he's dead," replied an older officer who identified himself as part of "Generation X."

The death of an American icon "back home" spurred conversations about what Americans are focused on and, for better or worse, the contrast between civilian life in the U.S. and on a military base in service of a greater war effort.

Camp Phoenix is a relatively quiet base where many serving will not have the opportunity to wander outside of the heavily secured outer perimeter walls, but thirty minutes away the mood is decidedly different.

Camp Morehead is nestled in a valley just outside of Kabul and serves as the training grounds of Afghan Commandos --the Afghan version of Special Forces and the cream of the Afghan military.

"There's a needs hierarchy here and many Afghans are at level 1, basic security and survival," said an Army Special Forces captain from Fort Bragg. The captain's mission is to train Afghan elite forces to face certain combat in the not too distant future. "We're very blessed that we don't have to deal with this level of terror and violence in the United States," the captain remarked, as frequent visitor to both Afghanistan and Iraq.

Because of sensitivity level of Special Forces missions, members avoid identification in the press.

Yet the Afghan media has followed the death of Michael Jackson. An Afghan interpreter working with the American military explained the importance of the pop icon to young Afghans and gave a different perspective from a nation where very little is ever simple.

"The Taliban banned music in this country from 1996 to 2001, Michael Jackson was one of the famous singers that young people listened to when they were finally permitted to hear music again."