Lieutenant Colonel Jan King – a Territorial Army Officer currently deployed to Afghanistan as Chief of Staff of the Combined Joint Movement Control Centre (CJMCC) at ISAF Joint Command (IJC) – blogs for the first time. Here she covers a recent visit to the Afghan Ministry of the Interior in Kabul.
I’m Lieutenant Colonel Jan King RLC – a Territorial Army Officer who normally does interim management within public sector bodies and in the voluntary sector. In the TA I am the Senior Officer for 497 Log Supply Unit RLC(V) – a staff unit that leads on supply issues. My current post is Chief of Staff of the Combined Joint Movement Control Centre (CJMCC) at ISAF Joint Command (IJC). The CJMCC is made up of around 40 personnel, around half are US and the rest are made up of Spanish, Danish, German, Dutch, French and now a few Brits, although for a while I was the only one! The role of the CJMCC is to ensure movement within Afghanistan is managed and deconflicted to ensure the most efficient movement of people and supplies.
Since arriving in Kabul just over a month ago there have been few opportunities to escape the confines of North Kabul International Airport – or NKAIA as it is known in these parts. Imagine arriving at somewhere like Luton airport and finding out that this is your journey’s end, and even the delights of Luton town are off limits. What’s more you’re not alone, there are around another 3,999 or so people of all nationalities, although very few locals, and between you you’ve got the challenge of trying to coordinate Coalition efforts to get Afghanistan on the straight and narrow.
But today was a day of escape from this unusual setting. The team I work with tries to keep an eye on movement of people and cargo into and around Afghanistan; hoping they or it get where needed when needed and safely. On the face of it a straightforward enough task but of course in reality a landlocked country, with no railways, pretty awful roads, some interesting neighbours and a bit of an insurgency problem, not forgetting 45 different nations involved in the operation doesn’t make for an easy time of it. The other thing of course is we’re not meant to be doing this forever and so the plan now is partnering with the Afghan people so that they secure their own future. So we are trying to get a couple of Afghan Army officers to come work with us so that they can help us getting around and we can help them with a few ideas of our own. So that’s what brought about the visit to the Afghan Ministry of the Interior in downtown Kabul.
The day didn’t start too well. There was a security alert and then a suicide bomber blew himself and others up on one of the main roads in the city. We set off in our land cruiser with body armour, helmets, weapons and goggles to negotiate the mean streets of Kabul. Despite a lot of crazy driving around it felt safe enough and particularly so in the ‘green zone’. The green zone is in no way green, in fact most everything at the moment is the colour of dust, probably because most everything is covered in a thick layer of it. When we eventually got to the Ministry of the Interior the place was like a small college campus with a lot of men (I spotted only one woman) milling around or being drilled in all sorts of manner of uniform and dress – a real eclectic mix of blues, greens and browns. Then I got introduced to the General. An imposing character wearing a thick serge uniform with the shirt tucked into his trousers. When the meeting he was chairing started, he held the attention of all despite having an interpreter translate every word and the subject matter being really a bit dull – the movement of various vehicles from one place to another. The building we were in was a bit down at heel but there was a great buzz about the place and a real extension of courtesy. We were watched over by a photo of President Karzai although as I looked around I couldn’t help wondering what lives these men who I assumed were in at least their 50s had led. Difficult to think of how life had been under the Russians and even more so under the Taliban, how had they lived and negotiated their existence. The other woman in the room, a highly competent young African American lieutenant, would have seemed like a creature from a completely different world only 10 years before. And yet the strangeness continues in other ways with these middle aged senior officers working so closely with a heavy foreign military presence to, in this case, at least fix a road move across Afghanistan. The meeting didn’t last long. Courtesies continued as we said our goodbyes. We then drove back to the place that is home for next five months. In the meantime
though, something Afghan had moved in – a grey tabby had made a comfortable home in between the inner and outer lining of my tent! More of that later…