visitors since 4 oct 2008

Diplomacy 101

I am in the middle of an interesting few days as we finish up our projects, some of the larger ones with official ceremonies.  Those of you who follow Michael Yon on facebook know where I am and what we have been up to.  What is interesting to watch is Michael, myself and our friend Chadd Nyerges, who works with me on the reporting side of the house, try to process the thousands of pictures and a dozen hours of video we collectively shot over the past 48 hours.  We are all writing reports, posting on the internet, trying to figure out what we have with all these photos and waiting for the plane to come back and get us.

One person can generate a amazing amount of digital imagery in a day.  This is the rig Michael Yon used to record day one of our stay in Nimroz

One person can generate an amazing amount of digital imagery in a day. This is the rig Michael Yon used to record day one of our stay in Nimroz.

The place for me to start my narrative of the trip is right in the middle.  Yesterday morning, we received news that the American VIPs who had thought they could attend one of the ceremonies, in fact, could not attend.  This made me the senior American present, a fact which I failed to think through before walking into the reception hall for the morning program of recognition for the US funding, in general, and my company, specifically.  As I entered the hall, my provincial manager, Bashir, who is from Afghanistan, greeted me with most unwelcome news.  “You are the senior man, Tim; you have to sit next to the Governor.” I said that would be fine, but I needed to find the men’s room first.  Bashir said that was not possible, and I had to go to my seat “right now.”

Almost an hour after Bashir said I had to be in my seat I remain frozen in place waiting for the program to start.  At this point I figure I can make it an hour maybe even 90 minutes before I fold and make a break for the men's room - which is a mark of weakness and lack of self control in this part of the world

Almost an hour after Bashir said I had to be in my seat, I remain frozen in place waiting for the program to start. At this point, I figure I can make it an hour, maybe even 90 minutes, before I fold and make a break for the men's room - which is a mark of weakness and lack of self-control in this part of the world.

So I’m stuck in place, and I know that if I get up and the Governor shows up and I amble on over to sit next to him after he has sat down…that would just not do; so I wait.

And wait - at this point I'm making up an elaborate fictional story about the last two days in order to keep my mind off the fact that what I really need to do, more than anything else in the word, was go use the mens room

And wait - at this point I'm making up an elaborate fictional story about the last two days in order to keep my mind off the fact that what I really need to do, more than anything else in the world, is go use the men's room.

As I sat, concentrating on positive energy for the test of wills that was to come, Deputy Provincial Governor Haji Qasem Khedry walked in, said his greeting to us and sat down next to me.  The clock had finally started, and I settled in, determined to hang tough.  A number of community elders came up to praise the US-funded Community Development Program and the management team in Nimroz, headed by Bashir Sediqi, who is my best provincial manager.

This is Haju Moulavi Sedahuddin who is a sharp critic of the governor and municipal authorities but agreed to come and testify as to the effectiveness of our programs and their positive impact on the people

This is Haji Moulavi Sedahuddin, who is a sharp critic of the governor and municipal authorities, but agreed to come and testify as to the effectiveness of our programs and their positive impact on the people. It was interesting to see him at this awards ceremony, and I was hoping his remarks would be brief but was to be disappointed.

I was pretty confident we were at least half way through the schedule of events when fate intervened in the form of an unfortunate event which allowed me to make a brief graceful exit.

If you look closely at the man in the back of this photo - second from the right you'll notice he appears to be unconscious.  He is about to lean forward and start throwing up.  Half of the men sitting with me are doctors and I knew the best thing for me to do was get out of the way as this emergency medical situation was handled

If you look closely at the man in the back of this photo - second row next to the wall, you'll notice he appears to be unconscious. He may or may not be. I don't know. What I do know is he's about to lean forward and start throwing up. This could be the sign of something serious or not - turns out he was alert and pain free when he left, so I'm guessing his was a minor medical issue. Half of the men sitting with me in the front are doctors, and I knew the best thing for me to do was get out of the way as this emergency medical situation was handled

Once I caught the commotion over my right shoulder and recognized there was a medical emergency, I took immediate action.  I bolted toward Bashir and pointed to the man saying, “He needs a doctor, and where is the toilet?”  Bashir said, “Downstairs to the left.”  I flew down the stairs with Mike Yon in hot pursuit.  “Do you know where the men’s room is?” he asked.   I told him we were on the way and stayed in front in case it was only one stall.  But it wasn’t – there were plenty of open toilets, as we had beaten the rush down to them.  We were back before the ceremony re-started, and I resumed my post.

This is the tail of the end of the presentation and I'm accepting a award from the people on behalf of my company.  The Boss should be here accepting this not me

This is the tail of the end of the presentation, and I'm accepting an award from the people on behalf of my company. The Boss should be here accepting this not me

During the past three years, we have accomplished some amazing projects.  I’ll be posting in detail about two of them in the near future.  What is important to remember, as we close down our Nimroz operations and move on, is that all the projects we did in Nimroz were conceived by, designed by and built by Afghans who are residents of the province (except for Bashir, who is moving after he closes down our operations).  As the only American in the lash-up, my role was limited to minor editing of reports.  The Boss was the man with the vision to tell USAID we could go down to Zaranj and work, and he proved he was right. I know I sound like a broken record, but I am trying to point out how easy it is to get things done in this country when you know what you’re doing.  And if you know what you are doing in Afghanistan, you will never walk into some public awards ceremony without first visiting the men’s room.  I now remember that I used to know that, and I bet I don’t forget again anytime soon.

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    9 comments to Diplomacy 101

    • dennis

      Looking dapper there Tim. All said an done your guys did a awesome job. And the guy with the upset tummy played a big part too. :)

    • RJ

      Let me assume your work and those of your company and immediate team have been very, very effective the years you’ve spent in country helping the natives. Let us assume some honest and wonderful friendships, including trust, etc. have also been formed. A job well done.

      Now, let’s travel on over to Iraq and see if what’s going on there might be a future indicator of what may happen in Afghanistan.

      It’s being reported that talks have broken down on what kind of American military presence will be allowed after the end of this year, wherein our dear leader, our drone warrior in chief, the man who gave the ok for the real warriors to go to the home of Bin Laden and see what’s what in real time…this same commander in chief is now hinting no big deal, we’ll just pull out all our troops and come home, leaving behind of course millions upon millions of dollars worth of gear (what’s the excuse…they will need spare parts for years?).

      Question: Why wouldn’t the people of Iraq and it’s democratically elected government want, nay…plead with America to have an active presence in their country?

      Didn’t we “set them free” from the bad and evil Hussein and his people?

      How many dead, how many injured, how many crippled Americans are there as a result of our military efforts in Iraq? How much American treasure has been spent on this venture?

      “Pack up and go home Gringos!” When will we see this chanting on our tvs by Iraqis?

      What makes you think the same game plan will not happen with Afghanistan? If not, why not? I’m not so sure.

      America now wages war while married to the peace corps, calling it COIN, or some other snappy terms/words…mumbo gumbo.

      Here in America, we need to get up to speed on this new world order game where America sends people dressed like a military to “police” and do “constructive efforts in aid” all around the planet for those in need…by presidential fiat, don’t ya know!

      Gotta work off that guilt, especially after realizing that 9/11 was mostly America’s fault…for not understanding how our work ethic and creative energies intimidate other peoples/nations to the point of action toward us, telling us how humiliated and low self-esteem they feel as a result of experiencing American exceptionalism.

      Again, make sure you keep in touch with the real friends you and your team have made in that country. Don’t expect the American flag to be flying there much longer. Expect Putin to be happier than he has been in years, though!

      Also note that there are many of us who realize that great work has been done by Americans outside the wire because…that’s just who and what we do as Americans…we try to help others help themselves!

      Winner and losers…happens in every game, kinda, maybe…depends on who controls the rule book.

    • Yeah, I’m so glad you found the toilet. It was as compelling a story as any, Tim!

    • Amina

      OMG! I can’t stop laughing. I felt your pain – every single pang. Thanks Tim.

    • T. Ferguson

      Good work old man! Good to see that you still have some discipline left in you ; )

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