Written by Steve Levenstein
Afghanistan, where fresh-faced Canadian soldiers walk the beat, hasn’t exactly been the most hospitable posting for foreign troops. In 1842, a 15,000-strong British army of occupation slunk out of Kabul after wearing out their welcome - weeks later, a single surviving soldier staggered into Jalalabad where the nearest British garrison was itself barely hanging on.
Not a whole lot has changed in the intervening 165 years, a mere blip in the existence of 2,300 year old Kandahar where 2,300-odd Canadian Forces personnel are attempting to make a difference in this ancient war-torn land. Founded by Alexander the Great, Kandahar’s strategic location has made it the prize for innumerable conquerors up to the present day. The Americans built a stylish airport there in the ‘60s, which was then bombed by the Soviets in the ‘80s and then again by the Taliban in the ‘90s. What’s left of this monument to good intentions is known as Kandahar Air Field, or KAF for short. It is here, amongst the bomb craters and bullet-pocked concrete, that the incongruously named “Boardwalk” is situated. This little home away from home is where the soldiers of the Canada’s contribution towards containing the Taliban quench their thirst with, of all things, hot double-doubles and Iced Cappies from the only Tim Hortons location outside the western hemisphere.
The more cynical among us might assume this is just one more promotional gambit by western corporate culture, and while it’s certain the publicity hasn’t hurt the 3,000 outlet powerhouse that sprouted from former Leaf defenceman Tim Horton’s original donut stand, the 10,000 kilometre road to Kandahar really is paved with good intentions. When Canadian troops first settled into their quarters at KAF and explored the Boardwalk, they were amazed to find a sort of mini-mall offering fast food from American cultural icons Burger King, Subway and Pizza Hut, a common practice wherever US troops are stationed. It’s the result of a longstanding cooperative agreement between the US military and America’s fast food providers - sort of an Alimentary Industrial Complex, as it were. As Canada’s contingent began to replace the Americans, however, they felt something lacking. “American coffee just isn't the same thing,” According to one Canuck warrant officer interviewed in the base’s mess tent. “I'd pay some serious coin for a good cup of Timmies.” It seems his sentiments weren’t at all uncommon, and they were heard by the highest ranking ears around: those of General Rick Hillier, the Canadian Chief of Defence Staff.
Hillier’s long been known as a “soldier’s soldier”, and he’s never been one to stand on ceremony. As Tim Hortons' Director of Business Development Doug Anthony related during the grand opening of the Kandahar Tim Hortons on Canada Day, 2006, “Several months ago, our President & CEO, Paul House received a call from [Canadian Chief of Defence Staff] General Rick Hillier on behalf of the troops stationed in Kandahar. They had told the General that the one thing they would really like on the base is a Tim Hortons.” Obviously it’s good to have friends in high places, and the idea of setting up a Timmies on the Kandahar Boardwalk filtered down the chain of command faster than a fresh pot of flavored cappuccino. It’s not known if General Rick snapped his fingers, Jean-Luc Picard-like, and said “Make it so!”, but the results speak for themselves: the fully functioning outlet serves Canadian and other NATO servicemen and women the full range of Tim Horton's menu items, from the aforementioned flavored cappuccino to chilled Iced Cappies. Just the thing to dash the desert dust away after a long day of patrolling the perimeter!
by Steve Levenstein
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