TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Bill Radke: With President Obama visiting Afghanistan, the chairman of his Joint Chiefs of Staff said the key to the war strategy there is the battleground city of Kandahar. Kandahar is the spiritual home of the Taliban opposition, and the U.S. is counting on not just a military success, there but a public relations victory. That might have something to do with a recent announcement that the U.S. military is shutting down a group of well-known American businesses on its base in that city. We’re joined by the Kabul bureau chief for the McClatchy newspapers, Dion Nissenbaum — welcome.
Dion Nissenbaum: Thank you.
Radke: Will you describe the Kandahar boardwalk for us?
Nissenbaum: Yeah, you know by American standards it’s a dusty square, and there’s a Subway sandwiches, there’s a new TGIFridays on one corner, there’s a small hockey rink where they usually have nightly hockey games, that was brought by the Canadians. And there’s also a new basketball court that’s come around since the Americans have started to come in a bit more.
Radke: These restaurants that are facing a shut down, TGIFridays and others, they are there on the base to cater to American soldiers and other base personnel. Why does the military say it’s shutting them down?
Nissenbaum: Well the military says with the new soldiers and coalition forces that are coming in, they basically need to create more space on the base. Of course, there’s also a sense that this as much about sort of the perception of having, you know, a slice of Western culture in the middle of Afghanistan, and in Kandahar, obviously, that’s the spiritual home of the Taliban. And so it’s especially sensitive, I think, to have these types of concessions right there, especially on the eve of the coalition attempt to drive the Taliban out of Kandahar.
Radke: It’s an unusual position for these American corporations to be in; I guess they serve at the military’s pleasure. So does that mean the shut down is a done deal, it’s going to happen?
Nissenbaum: Well they’ve exempted a Green Beans coffee house, a Canadian favorite, Kim Horton’s, will remain open. But the other places are all I think going to be packing up. And I imagine there probably will also be a fair amount of discussion about the contracts and whatever clauses there are for breaking them.
Radke: So the Canadian restaurant stays. Dion Nissenbaum is the bureau chief in Kabul for the McClatchy newspapers. Dion, thank you.
Nissenbaum: Thank you, have a good day.
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