The Foreign Service Journal - September 2014 - page 46

46
SEPTEMBER 2014
|
THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
Life on a secure compound in a war zone
is somewhat surreal.
BY B I L L BENT
FEATURE
SERVING AT
EMBASSY
KABUL
Bill Bent, an FSO serving in Afghanistan, is a former member of the FSJ
Editorial Board and the AFSA Governing Board.
T
rying to capture what it is like living
and working as a diplomat in Afghani-
stan is a bit like the Indian parable of
the blind men and the elephant. In the
story, each blind man feeling different
parts of the elephant has a different
view on how to describe it. Their indi-
vidual impressions, while true, are not
entirely so, at least not in the sense of
describing the elephant in its totality. Similarly, one’s impres-
sions and experiences of Afghanistan depend on what one has
touched or, more accurately, what has touched each unique
individual. My thoughts may, therefore, be different than the
impressions others have come away with; but there are certain
experiences common to all.
The critical security threat colors everything here, govern-
ing how we live, work and play. The adage, that soldiering is 99
percent boredom and 1 percent sheer terror, applies equally
well to diplomatic service here. The weekly Selectone security
tests and the periodic “duck and cover” drills become routine
background noise, and it is easy to become complacent. But
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