KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – Saying this briefing he’s sitting through would be a “real drag” if not for the iced caramel macchiato in front of him, Maj. Gen. Thad Simon reports he’s actually having a pretty delightful time at the ISAF Joint Command headquarters in Kabul, thanks largely to the booming restaurant scene on post.
“Matter of fact, you think can we cut this snoozer short?” Simon whispered to his aide. “I’m jonesing something fierce for a dark chocolate and raspberry crêpe, which I can totally get here.”
Indeed, Kabul International Airport — KAIA, for short — is renowned by NATO’s power players for its extensive catalogue of buzzed-about eateries and decidedly above-average military dining facilities.
“Let’s see,” Simon said, considering his heap of culinary options in the middle of what sources confirm is still, in fact, a war zone. “There’s the brick-oven pizza place, a smoothie bar, three coffee shops, Greek, Lebanese, Italian, and, if you don’t mind the wait, a bumping Thai joint. Some days, I’ll even mix it up with the European DFAC, but only once in a while, cause they can be real bastards about letting a brother snag an extra bowl of tiramisu for the road.”
While KAIA’s rich gastronomical culture might seem at odds with the ongoing and, in some provinces, spiking violence in theater, Simon says its exactly the morale-boost he needs to push through arduous days of scrutinizing meaningless PowerPoints and shaking hands with people whose names he forgets instantly.
“Scuttling an entire war is damn hard work,” Simon said. “At the end of the day, it’s comforting to know there’ll be a delicious plate of green vegetable curry or shish tawouk waiting. Kinda reminds me of home, to be honest.”
“Heck,” he continued. “If it weren’t for all these kooky foreigners walking around, it might be like I never left at all. Only thing I’ve got to miss back in the States is my wife and the T.G.I. Friday’s we go to every Wednesday.”
“Speaking of, didn’t they have a T.G.I. Friday’s in Kandahar? Where’s my Friday’s? Better yet, where’s my Ruth’s Chris? I know there’s still money to burn on this war, and I could really spring for a dry-aged ribeye right about now. Come to think of it, would anyone care if we just picked up this whole operation and moved it to a steakhouse back in Arlington? Are people even following this fucking thing anymore?”
The ‘Haqqani Burger’ explodes with flavor.
While most senior officers on KAIA share Simon’s taste for quality eats, a few doe-eyed colonels — who sources suggest are either on their first rotation to Afghanistan or desperate to make flag officer — have suggested the war effort’s top brass ought to spend a little less time perusing menus and a little more time devising strategies to cripple insurgent groups in advance of next year’s elections.
“Ha! That’s so funny I almost forgot to laugh,” Simon said, savoring a fresh cannoli from the bakery near the working dogs. “Hey, you hear about this new gourmet burger place by the flagpoles? I’m seeing five-star reviews on Yelp, and Dunford tells me they’ve got a waitress who’s smokin’ hot!”