KABUL, Afghanistan — Marine Cpl. Brett Bass will do what a lot of American service members hope to this Christmas Day: "I'm going to give myself a gift of not turning on my alarm clock," he said.
Maj. Bryan Burke will be trying to coax his 4-year-old daughter to say hello in a video chat. Spc. Marshall Little will have worked the graveyard shift, so he'll still be sleeping when an extravagant Christmas lunch is served at noon. By the time he wakes up, though, it will be morning in America, and he will go online with his wife to open some of the half-dozen presents waiting in his tent.
After more than 11 years of war in Afghanistan, there is still plenty of work to do. But this is the time of year when the tempo of the war slows dramatically.
Here at one of Kabul's main military bases, Camp KAIA, where the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command runs the war's operational headquarters on the edge of Kabul International Airport, officials have done their best to put a festive face on a dusty and sometimes dreary landscape.
While Afghanistan may sometimes seem like America's forgotten war — it was scarcely mentioned in the presidential campaigns — soldiers here say they do not feel forsaken. Technology helps, and many said they would try to have video chats during present-opening time, despite time differences ranging from 91/2 to 141/2 hours.
For weeks, the base has been deluged with packages, not just from family and friends but also from schools and churches back in the States. Capt. Dan Einert's church, Beautiful Savior Lutheran in Topeka, Kan., shipped eight boxes full of 20 presents for everyone in his unit; the soldiers opened them at an office party on Monday night.
"It was a very touching gesture," Captain Einert said.