As Afghanistan parliamentary elections draw near, tension remain high

 A major sandstorm just before Saturday's Parliamentary elections has made patrolling 
the outskirts of Forward Operating Base Bullard in the Sha Joy district in Afghanistan
extremely difficult.

The thick clouds of dust, which troops refer to as "moon dust" filled the sky and painted
people and buildings brown. American soldiers on patrol have had to endure long nights
with little visibility.

To make matters worse, the latrines and showers were not operating for more than a day.
Soldiers had to put together make-shift toilets made of ply wood and cleaned up with bottles
of water and diaper wipes. The base, which was originally designed for 200 troops is now
home to more than 400 Romanian and U.S. soldiers, so under good weather conditions hygiene
is a challenge.

As for the election tomorrow, tensions remain high. Chatter intercepted from the Taliban
suggests attacks are planned. Numerous IEDs have already been located along the main
roads and troops have been fired on by mortars and small arms from the outlaying villages. Suicide attackers are the biggest concern. In June, a 13 year old boy in a burqa detonated his
suicide vest in the main bazaar in Sha Joy. The young Afghan suicide bomber killed 
Sgt. Robert Fike, 38, and Sgt. Bryan Hoover, 29, along with Afghan civilians. The deaths of the
Army National Guardsmen, both from Pennsylvania, remind troops here that the Taliban is out
 there watching and waiting.

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