I can't imagine that many tourists go to Herat in western Afghanistan anymore. I don't know if they ever had that many tourists there. The first time I was there was in 1969. It was my first real glimpse of legendary Afghanistan after months of slow trudging through Eastern Europe, Turkey and Iran. I recall a lot desert wasteland in eastern Iran and the same over the border in Afghanistan until we got to Herat. And Herat is-- or at least was-- a garden city. I remember it as a kind of urban oasis, although the gardens were pretty much exclusively behind high walls. I think it was the third biggest city then, after Kabul and Kandahar. Kandahar has been so decimated-- while Herat was relatively immune from the nightmare that Afghanistan has been in the last few decades-- that I think Herat is now the second biggest city.
After spending several months in Afghanistan, I realized Herat was one of the richest cities in the country. Later I had a business partner, the postmaster of Kabul, who was the son of Herat's governor, a relative of the king. When I was arrested with 50 kilos of incredible Mazari hash built into the panels of my van a year or so later up near the Russian border, the postmaster's father got me out of prison in a few hours-- and got me back my van (with the hash) the following day.
The first time I got to use the really strong hallucinogenic-- hallucinogenic like an acid trip-- Mazari hash was my first day in Herat. My sparkling new red VW van rolled into town and every rich merchant in the city was all over me. I soon found myself sitting alone-- where were my friends?-- in a huge airy room with a dozen Herati merchants... smoking. Hours later I was not just still high, I was still getting higher! I loved Herat and I loved Afghanistan. I stayed a long time and started losing rack of who I was-- other than this stoned guy in a strange, strange world unlike anything I had ever experienced. So what brought Herat back to my mind tonight? Taliban insurgents attacked the U.S. consulate. The video up top, from earlier today, purports to show a U.S. base near Herat overrun by the Taliban. The attack on the consulate came later although details are still sketchy.
The Taliban told the BBC a suicide bomber had detonated explosives outside the building before dawn on Friday.
Other fighters then opened fire on the consulate. Several Afghan police are reported to have been killed and injured in the gun battle.
It is the latest in a series of attacks ahead of the withdrawal of foreign combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014.
An Afghan army spokesman told the BBC that the initial explosion had damaged outer defences of the US consulate, allowing the attackers to breach the perimeter and shoot at the consulate buildings.