Monday, March 16, 2009

Crazy Day

An account of my first full day in Kabul, just to give a feeling of what things are like around here:

My driver and bodyguard picked me up at my hotel at 9:00 this morning (after I chat and swap cigarettes with the hotel guards)* for a quick drive to the compound. We meet with a couple of Nepalese businesspeople in the morning to arrange for a dozen Gurkhas to take a new contract we're negotiating with a subsidiary of a major US PSC. Before lunch, two South Africans from another PSC (run by an ex-CIA special operations guy) stop by to ask for a proposal for more guards at a facility outside of Kabul. After lunch, we meet again with the Nepalese and go off to talk through the contract with the Americans (we almost don't get in to their compound because my guy refuses to surrender his weapon at the gate), then another quick meeting with the country-manager for a certain US company with a somewhat stained reputation who has a possible contract bid coming up in 45 days.*

*Cigarettes are like currency here, kind of like being in prison (so I'm told).

**Google Nisoor Square if you don’t know who I’m talking about, although I should point out that the Afghan operations of this company are highly-regarded.

Then off to the Ministry of Finance for a cup of tea with the new minister, discussing some infrastructure projects that we're working on. We're late, he's pissed. At 4:00 we drive up to Bagram airbase north of Kabul to meet with ISAF/NATO officers coordinating the PSCs in A-stan. Can't get in because the base is on lock-down after a suicide bombing at a different gate earlier in the day.* Waste precious hours. Back to the compound for a late dinner and drafting of several proposals which we (stupidly) promised by the end of the day.

*For those of you inclined to worry, I should point out that Bagram is so large that four hours after the bombing, the guards at the gate we went to didn’t even know the reason for the lockdown. We were parked not more than twenty yards from the outer perimeter gate and the most we got we indifferent stares from the locals.

Back at the hotel by 10:00, try (and fail) to get a few hours of sleep before I have to be back at the compound tomorrow morning at 8:00 to screen thirty Nepalese Gurkhas and choose twelve for the new contract. They seem to think that since the Afghanis were trained by the Russians and the Gurkhas by the Brits, my knowledge of “Western military techniques" will be helpful in the selection process. I neglect to mention to anyone that it has been twenty years since I was in the Army. Doesn't matter; the staff here, taking their lead from the president of the company, all seem to be convinced that I’m actually CIA. Why else would anyone come here?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The comment about the CIA cracks me up. In the eighties, I worked in the Mid-East, Africa and Central Asia - as a commercial paramedic. Everyone thought I had to be CIA. Quite a few told me I was CIA to my face. They never seemed to be interested in doing anything about it and I never felt threatened. Mostly, people would just show up, point at me, say, "He's CIA." Then they would move on... I never could figure out why...