An American celebration of Independence Day is familiar wherever in the world Americans live and work. The day includes lots of great American food, such as hot dogs and hamburgers, spectacular fireworks displays, good music, and a sense of community as friends and family gather for the holiday.
The celebration of the Fourth of July here in Kabul, Afghanistan was pretty much exactly as I just described. With some minor differences. For example, the hot dogs were replaced by chicken shawarma, a popular regional dish made of shaved meat and served with flat bread, tomato and cucumber. And, we couldn't launch any fireworks into the air, for obvious reasons. However, the sense of community and camaraderie were the same.
On July 2, the U.S. Embassy hosted our Afghan friends, partners and colleagues from the Afghan government, business community, civil society, media and more. I participated in the embassy-wide team effort in planning the event, and was immensely proud of the entire team as everything came together for a successful event.
Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and General David Petraeus both addressed the guests at the reception, and looked back on their experiences serving their country in Afghanistan. Ambassador Eikenberry and his wife Ching will depart Kabul later this month. The Ambassador focused his remarks on the extraordinary partnerships the U.S. Mission has built in Afghanistan. Senior Advisor to the President, Hedayat Amin Arsala, spoke on behalf of the Afghan government, and thanked the United States for its contributions and efforts to help the Afghan people.
The day after our official celebration, we hosted a gathering for all of the U.S. Embassy staff, including our invaluable Afghan employees and their families. It was great to meet family members of my Afghan coworkers, and to have the opportunity to let them know how much we value their hard work and dedication. There is no way we could operate this embassy without the support of our local staff. They are a critical part of our community.
And, while only projected on a big television screen, we had fireworks after the sunset!