However, there are some great aspects to serving here that are difficult to find elsewhere. In fact, there are people who have been working here for multiple years in the Mission or repeatedly return. So I felt it due to highlight some of the great aspects I've found to working here in Kabul.
1) Great Camaraderie
Life in the embassy compound will leave little other social opportunities but with your colleagues. Everyone at post experiences or can relate to similar personal circumstances and work challenges. This allows for the quick forming close friendships and bonds in an environment that can be compared to being in a small college campus.
The problem is, for most, it’s just a short one-year tour. Before you know it, you’ll be soon saying goodbye to your newfound circle.
2) Lots of Responsibility and Opportunity to Make a Difference
The work is fast-paced and dynamic with the resources to make a large impact in the lives of the people of Afghanistan. The challenge is implementing the reconstruction and development projects in a way that is sustainable, necessary, and really yields benefits. The US’ position as the largest funder of development in Afghanistan also comes with the responsibility to carefully avoid inflating the market or working at cross-purposes with Afghanistan’s own individual growth and capacity.
Taking on a lot of responsibility as a Junior Officer early in the career gives a wide breadth of scenarios and roles to play that wouldn’t be available at other Missions. Personally, I feel I’ve learned and performed more in half the time I feel I could have done in a traditional post.
3) Less Personal Responsibilities
At post, pretty much everything is provided for you. Housing, food, laundry facilities, gyms, you name it. No more grocery shopping or cooking, the office is just a walk next door, and no ability for family responsibilities. Of course, you can always complain that any of it could be better, but it’s all absolutely free.
As a result, the post has a very lively community of volunteers hosting activities for all tastes. This includes exercise classes and sports, hobby clubs, board games, and dance parties on a weekly basis.
4) Practical Benefits
From the get go, the post differentials at post will see your income increasing by 70%. And with few expenses at post (see point 3), you’ll be able to fully invest in savings like the TSP and still have money left over. If you’re needing to pay off debts, Afghanistan would definitely be a good place to help do that.
Unfortunately, it’s not travel within the country but you’ll get up to 3 trips out of country a year where you can meet up with family and see new places (or home to see each other). The tickets are paid for (up to a limit) and you just need to pick the destination you’d like to go. I was able to check off several more countries off the list during my first year in Afghanistan that probably would have been a lot longer to get to unless I were serving here.
Afghanistan is definitely not as bad as I imagined it to be. There are even some who really enjoy the warzone countries and have worked in them for many years (I’ve met people with 5+ years here). While not something that I could do, I can understand the appeal. Working in this type of environment is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and will be a memorable moment in my Foreign Service adventure.