A plaque decorated with the flags of Norway, New Zealand, Spain, Australia and Britain hangs near the tarmac of Kabul International Airport. In front, the gaping holds of two chartered Antonov-124 cargo aircraft disgorge a stream of Polish heavy trucks, German rice crispies, a Greek mine disposal squad and other heavy equipment.
On the plaque is the motto of the multinational effort to maintain and guard the airfield: "Maybe Airlines".
"I guess it speaks for itself," says RAAF Flight Lieutenant Shawn Bellas, the only Australian in ISAF, the UN-led peacekeeping unit that has guarded Kabul since December.
With five nationalities under his command as chief of the air movements section on the base, Flt Lt Bellas has learned a thing or two about multinational military operations. Most important? "Try and speak slower," he says with a grin.
Every 24 hours, more than a dozen cargo aircraft fly into and out of Kabul airport, in addition to a number of passenger flights. The previous day brought in 34 German police wagons, a Czech hospital unit and more "German rice crispies" which seems to be base jargon for anything coming from Germany.
At the gate of the airport, a busload of Italian clowns, finishing a tour of Kabul hospitals, dances to accordion music and awaits a military transport flight out.
"It's like the Berlin airlift. Everything has to be flown in and flown out," says British RAF Flight Lieutenant Colin Snape.
To bring it all off, Kabul airport has to work like a Swiss watch - and it does, according to all accounts. In doing so, it has become a test case of the efficiency of multinational forces.
RAF Group Captain Steve Abbott, who commands the base, said that military chores in ISAF are well integrated. French and British units patrol the airport perimeter, while the airport's logistics room contains British, New Zealanders, Spaniards, Australians and Norwegians, all under Group Capt. Abbott's command.
"You can have a multinational force where one country does the airport, one country does the recon, and one does the laundry. Each unit is probably more efficient than a multinational group handling each of these tasks, which is what we have here," he says.
"But what this does at the political level, it doesn't do in terms of building trust and cohesion. By involving everyone you build a shared sense of ownership."
The most important factor, in addition to speaking more slowly, is to have a sense of humour. The Spanish compound is nicknamed Majorca. "It's where the British go to listen to loud music, drink a lot and get sick. That's what the British do in Spain," says Group Capt. Abbott.
The French have mobile shower units, much preferred to the plastic water bags used by the British. The British have multigyms - much sought after by all to tone the Rambo-like physiques of the peacekeepers, and everyone shares.
"I only have 10 Norwegians. If we had 50, we'd have a sauna," quips Group Capt. Abbott.
Flt Lt Bellas feels he deserves some recognition for being the only Australian in ISAF. "No one knows about me back home," he says.
The wish to be known about, meanwhile, is not shared by other multi-national forces operating near Kabul.
While ISAF patrols Kabul, maintains the airports and trains policemen, at Bagram airbase 30km to the north, a US-led coalition of mainly elite special forces from various countries sallies forth to hunt down and kill al-Qaeda fighters.
Shortly, 1,700 British Royal Marines will join the soldiers at Bagram for operations against al-Qaeda.
The mood at Bagram is different to that of the Kabul airbase. Humour is kept within limits set out in a three-page document distributed to journalists arriving at the base.
"That flag?" says US Major Bryan Hilferty, asked about a flag of a country known for its fjords fluttering near the press centre. "You can't write about it."
Like Kabul airport, Bagram is a pastiche of different cultures and nations; just do not ask what they are, aside from a common passion for body-building and $300-sunglasses, which appears to cut across national and cultural boundaries.
"These are what they call SOF forces or special forces. These folks don't want to be written about," says Major Hilferty. A group of soldiers from a country north of the US stroll across the tarmac, distinguished by their bulging biceps and non-regulation haircuts.
"Many of these guys don't exist," says Major Hilferty.
In spite of the success at integrating multinational armies, there are still some occasional hiccups in the process. At Kabul airport, the French contingent brought fancy mobile shower units, which they offered to the rest of the base until the British were found to be using too much water. The French reacted swiftly, banning the British from the showers for a day.
There was some talk of retaliation by limiting French access to the British multigyms. In the end, the French graciously reconsidered, allowing everyone full access to the showers, as long as the British used less water.
Afghan gunmen try to kill province's security chief
Afghan gunmen opened fire yesterday on the security chief of eastern Afghanistan's Khost province, missing him but killing one person and seriously injuring two others, AP reports from Kabul.
The gunmen, believed to be allies of the US special forces in Khost, have taken refuge in their fortified airport compound, said Hazratuddin, intelligence chief of Khost.
"We have asked the Americans to hand them over but so far they haven't," he said.
The governor of Khost, Mohammed Ibrahim, has also demanded their arrest. According to Hazratuddin, the men opened fire on Sur Gul, the provincial security chief, because he had tried to disarm them a day earlier in the market. The man who died was Mr Gul's driver and bodyguard.
Khost is a volatile city, bristling with men with guns, and has been carved up into areas of control by warlords of varying strength. Most of the city is under the control of warlord Bacha Khan Zardran, but there are rivalries within his group.
Many such rivals have been recruited by the US special forces in their war on terrorism in Afghanistan. The US military provides them with training and $200 (£143, E226) a month for each soldier, a significant sum in impoverished Afghanistan. Mr Gul also works with the US special forces.