As I approached my two month mark in Afghanistan I decided that while I'm all for sunny days, I am also in favor of clouds and rain. I know there are far hotter, sandier, dustier places all around me, and feel lucky to have landed in the relatively temperate climate I live in. Nonetheless, I was still very glad when my first Afghan raindrops began to fall. After turning my face to the clouds and feeling the cool moisture I realized that it was full of dirt and pollution from nearby Kabul, and I headed inside. The day of rain both dropped the temperature and removed the haze of dust that hangs over what I am coming to think of as my valley.
(and JICUWW that's an Afghan Police vehicle not my ride)
Luckily, I had a chance to head up into the mountains before the dust cloud rises again, and enjoy the notably greener scenery. It was an enjoyable ride with my U.S. military colleagues who have won their place as my preferred escort service (please don't take that the wrong way) by A: enjoying the ride themselves and keeping up a steady stream of comprehensible if often nonsensical commentary B: always having some tunes running in the background. As is often the case I was crashing their party, making use of their transport to get to places and people that are of interest to me in my focus on governance and development (gov/dev). However, the line between security and gov/dev gets blurred early and often here, and I'm often able to pick up useful gov/deve information from "security" contacts, and pass on information of use to my military colleagues that I picked up from gov/dev contacts. While things are never perfect and there are times when information doesn't flow - I have been extremely pleased and impressed with the effort and results of the USG here in sharing resources, information, contacts and "airtime" during KLEs to help each other get their respective (and interlocking) jobs done.
My Colleagues at Work
One of the more interesting questions we face is how to support the efforts of GIRoA in places where their hold on authority is tenuous (or worse). There is a constant pressure and temptation to offer solutions and resources, and an equal and opposite pressure to apply a rigorous reality/sanity check on those good intentions we have given both the lessons of history and the reality of our limitations and end goal of supporting GIRoA not supplanting them.
I continue to hope that I will not use my (now stale) previous training as an EMT, but in my dealings here I HAVE found myself clinging to the mantra of first responders.
"First do no harm"
Getting Ready to Dismount
Final note for my valued colleagues: JICUWW = just in case you were wondering