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Kandahar Airfield: just like Coney Island

Photos: Debate continues at this military base over whether a hockey rink and TGI Friday's represent democracy or decadence.

“Soldiers will still be able to eat pizzas and burgers — but served up in military canteens rather than in commercial outlets,” an ISAF spokesman recently told the BBC.

But one Marine colonel is not holding his breath.

“That ain’t gonna happen,” said Don Groves, a reservist colonel in charge of operations at Kandahar Airfield. “They’ve been saying it for over a year and not one thing has shut down.”

When McChrystal’s delegation asked Groves to estimate how much of a logistical burden the products destined for the Boardwalk represented, he quickly concluded that they took up about 1 percent of total weight airlifted. Not quite the case of pizza dough supplanting Humvees.

“If you shut things down, does that mean that people won’t congregate there at night and play volleyball?” Groves said. “You don’t want people gathering in tents, both because of different sleeping schedules and because in the Boardwalk they’re visible and you have a sense of what’s not going on.”

Back at the Boardwalk, the eagerly anticipated, high-ceilinged TGI Friday’s restaurant has just opened a few doors down from Mamma Mia Pizza and a German Market. Decorated with kitsch Americana and stabs at gallows humor, it serves up a bust of Bill Clinton, a dry bar and traffic signs emblazoned with the legends Dead Man’s Curve and No Waterboarding Allowed. A curvaceous South Asian hostess leads punters to their tables.

“The food sucks and it’s too expensive,” said one female soldier of the restaurant as she waited in line on the Boardwalk to have her picture taken with a hockey championship cup. “But the atmosphere’s great and it really feels like you’re back home.”

“Are you telling me we can’t have a McDonald’s in Kandahar?” asked her friend. “Being able to do that, it’s just democracy, isn’t it?”