The Bush Market


Soon after 9/11, American troops came to Kabul, Afghanistan, hoping to stop terrorists cells before they could strike again. Kabul has had an American military presence since, and, for the last eight years, some residents there have felt the economic effect of the troops’ presence.

Which is why, according to the Washington Post, some welcome the troops — and hope they stay longer.

American troops come with guns, tanks, and all sorts of other weaponry, but they also come with other stuff, like snacks and toiletries and various other sundries not typically found in Afghanistan. About eight years ago, a black market of sorts opened up in the capital city of this war-torn country, named the “Bush Market,” after George W. Bush, the president who ordered the troops to Afghanistan originally. The Bush Market has an estimated 600 shops and booths, selling everything from hair dye and acne medicine to Pop-Tarts and other goodies.

While those items are intended to be used by American servicemen, they often find themselves in the hands of Afghan vendors — sometimes via trade, but most often via theft. As the Post explains, while most of the items are stolen property, Afghan authorities leave the market alone unless the Americans ask — and that is rare. The U.S. tends to leave the Bush Market be unless something sensitive is believed to have ended up there. That hasn’t happened in roughly two years.

Despite the presence of armed men loyal to another nation, many of the vendors want the American troops to remain. The vendors figure that when the soldiers leave, so goes their shops’ inventory. One vendor interviewed by the Post even believes that reports of a troop pullout have a negative effect on the marketplace’s economy, given the uncertainty around the supply of available goods.

Until then? As one anonymous merchant told the Post, a lot of Afghan merchants, are, by Afghanistan’s standards, getting “very rich doing this.”

Bonus fact: The fact that Pop-Tarts are popular in the Bush Market shouldn’t be a surprise — but it should be credited to the United States as a success. In 2001, the U.S. began airdropping food (in the form of military rations called “meals ready to eat,” or MREs) in Afghanistan, hoping to feed some of the millions of people there who found food lacking. Many of the MREs contained Pop-Tarts, which were specifically included to “introduce Afghans to American food,” per the Baltimore Sun. Later reports suggested that the U.S. dropped well over two million Pop-Tarts in Afghanistan that year.

From the ArchivesThe Last Jew in Afghanistan: Self-explanatory.

Related96 blueberry-flavored Pop-Tarts.