Over the last two decades, as many will know, I have been engaged in working out the ways to get some hundreds of millions of dollars in funds distributed out to some fairly remote and difficult parts of the world such as flood affected Pakistan above, or conflict rife Kosovo or Afghanistan and more recently across thousands of miles of ocean in Micronesia. I have just been made aware of how this might change enormously for the better in the future.
Well it is not really a holiday, except for the local staff whom have been given half a day off for the inauguration of President Obama leaving the rest of us to deal with a tranche of emails. In my case, I was up early and on a plane to the south of Afghanistan, to a small provincial capital known as Lashkar Gar in Helmand province.
Helmand has the dubious distinction of being the center of opium production in Afghanistan and also a popular hangout for a large contingent of the Taliban. My protectors advise me that they are within rocket firing distance to the south of our compound and routinely fire them into the PRT base of which we are in between these two forces. It was a cheery thought to welcome me as if the hundred or so security personal that were at the airport to greet the dozen or so of us that arrived this morning was not foreboding enough.
There was a little time left before the staff went to lunch and with the afternoon off I decided we might go to one of the nearby projects to see how it was going. It has been a thorn in our side since it is well behind schedule and one to the reasons I had come down here.
In order to go there however I needed to go in the company of a team of security personal so was obliged to wait a few minutes for them to rig up. No mean feat considering all the equipment they carry. Even I was obligated to don body armor which I suppose made sense considering all the other protection that being afforded me.
Before I could alight from the car on site, Mike the security chief and his team conducted a recon of the building site to ensure that it was safe.
The site itself was like a thousand others I have been on, 20 or so local building labourers mixing and pouring concrete into the foundations of what would become a new court house in Lashkar Gar. The contractor needed some prompting since he has fallen behind schedule. He is the grey bearded gentleman to the right in the following picture.
Just beyond the fence behind me there was a lot of activity going on with several local police cars and policemen doing whatever policemen do in this town. Mike ( the Australian on the left of me) had indicated that the local intelligence was that there is a vehicle borne suicide bomber in town seeking out international targets. Again I felt a sort of cheery feeling in that my vacation day was being so well spent and the comfort of my own office and my own bed was a distant but desirable attraction.
The group above are the detail that accompanied me to site. They seem very well trained and everything else aside, I felt less intimidated by their presence.
Driving to the site was an experience. The escort vehicles take control of the road, blocking it in order that the vehicle I was in could pass unheeded. Their vehicle was heavily fortified with steel inner doors.
The job I hear you ask. Well the contractor needs a little supervision and and we reached an agreement that he would double his workforce and add additional machinery, hopefully before I leave the day after tomorrow.
Tomorrow I will go to our other project here in Lash at the Governors office where we are doing a complete renovation.
This was the contractor I had to convince he needed to do this job when I first arrive. By all accounts they are doing a great job and are receiving accolades from all concerned. I think I will be happy enough if it gets a little warmer and all I mean by that is if the sun comes out.