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off Afghanistan II Texas Aek Chris Tomlinson, third from left, with Afghan colleagues. Photo by Craig Nelson An Afghan Thanksgiving by Chris Tomlinson 0 n Thanksgiving Day 2001, my job was to take the turkeys out of the fire. I’d been out reporting most of the day, so when I returned to Jalalabad my contribution to dinner was to monitor four scrawny Afghan turkeys that were baking in Dutch ovens buried in hot coals behind the Spinghar Hotel. Once I was sure they were fully cooked, I sliced them up for a dining room full of war correspondents who were celebrating with an unhealthy amount of lousy Pakistani liquor. As a foreign correspondent for The Associated Press, I had spent more than a dozen Thanksgivings with fellow hacks in Third World countries, fashioning holiday meals from whatever we could find in local markets. But Thanksgiving in Afghanistan was different. Sure, there were plenty of familiar faces from past wars in the old hotel that we had made the media headquarters. There were also acouple of household names at the table: CNN’s Brent Sadler, Fox’s Geraldo Rivera. But this dinner of turkey, mutton, cauliflower and potatoes was more emotional than others. Just a week before, Taliban fighters had ambushed us on the road to Kabul. The bearded gunmen stopped two of the cars in the convoy and executed four of our colleagues. It took several days to get the bodies to Pakistan. Their faces were still fresh in our minds. The night before the holiday, The Washington Post’s Pam Constable had decided to organize a dinner to break the somber mood, even as American bombs rattled the windows. We tried to blunt our trauma by raising glasses to our fallen comrades and treating ourselves to an American Thanksgiving. Eight Thanksgivings later, U.S. soldiers are still celebrating their survival in Afghanistan, even as they ship home the bodies of their dead. Taliban gunmen are still launching ambushes on the Kabul road as American bombs rain down. Some Texas troops will be sharing a Thanksgiving meal on the sprawling Bagram Air Base, eating turkey and fixings supplied by Houston-based KBR, which has made billions in profits from the war. More will be sitting behind sandbags in frigid fire bases, eating ravioli out of plastic bags and peering down mountainsides, watching for the enemy. NOVEMBER 27, 2009 TEXASOBSERVER.ORG 13