Viagra and military secrets at the Bagram bazaar

BAGRAM, June 15, 2008 (AFP) – “I don’t really know what it is for,” says a salesman with some embarrassment, despite the explicit illustrations on the bottle of “Long Love Spray”. Alongside it on the shelf of a tiny shop in the bazaar at Bagram is a “special sex” gel as well as distinctive blue Viagra pills that are almost impossible to find in the regular pharmacies of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

The bazaar at Bagram, 50 kilometres (30 miles) north of Kabul and a few hundred metres (feet) from the country’s biggest US military base, is stocked with a range of similarly risque Asian and American products that arrive via Pakistan.

It is a regular Ali Baba’s cave — and the 40 thieves are probably not far away for among the goods on sale, which include routine items such as food, hygiene products and clothes, are some “from inside” that have somehow made it off the base through layers of security.

“We get them from inside the base and we sell them more cheaply, both to Afghans and to the international soldiers, but we make the foreigners pay more,” says Obaid, who has been working here for eight months.

He offers some apparently authentic Oakley brand sun