Twenty-Four Hours in the Life of Embassy Kabul

Posted by Jessica Simon
August 12, 2010

About the Author: Jessica Simon serves in the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. She previously served at U.S. Embassy Kabul. Daniel J. Wilkinson, who serves as official photographer in the Public Affairs Section at U.S. Embassy Kabul, provided the video.

Some say that New York is the city that never sleeps…but the same could be said of U.S. Embassy Kabul. Embassy staff are hard at work 24/7, implementing the President's strategy in Afghanistan. Daybreak finds the security teams in position, as always, while landscaping and cleaning crews proceed to their assignments (the Embassy's roses are famous). New arrivees, bleary-eyed and dusty (it doesn't take long on the ground to acquire a nice gritty coating akin to shake-n-bake) are greeted by their sponsors; members of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams arrive in from the field to enjoy the Embassy's “luxuries” (read: the swimming pool); the office-dwellers shake off sleep in their “hooches” -- retrofitted shipping containers that serve as home-sweet-home...or, if they're lucky, apartments complete with full kitchens -- and make their way to the office, some stopping off at one of the two Embassy-compound cafeterias to load up on scrambled eggs, biscuits, juice and fruit -- breakfast, after all, is the most important meal of the day. The Embassy's local Afghan staff arrive via foot, bike, bus, and auto for the day's work supporting all sections of the Embassy and acting as cultural advisors and the Embassy's institutional and historical knowledge. They remain here long after their American supervisors, most on one- or two-year tours, have moved on. Kabul mornings are the best time to get some real work done, before Washington wakes up and starts issuing taskings.

Another burst of activity happens mid-day: lunch. The afternoon finds people coming and going from meeting to meeting, thanks to an efficient and well-staffed motorpool office: "countdown" meetings for incoming VIP visitors; meetings at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss pressing bilateral issues; meetings with parliamentary candidates hoping that the September 18 elections will bring them welcome news; or agriculture working-group meetings to further developments in this priority sector. In the realm of agriculture, the hard work paid off with the opening of Kabul's first juice factory, supported by USAID, in fall 2009. The whole world can now savor Afghanistan's famously sweet pomegranates.

Quitting time ranges from late afternoon for some local staff, to evening, or even much later. If you have the time and energy, it's off to leisure and extracurricular pursuits. While the variety of options isn't overwhelming, Embassy Kabulites are good at making the most of the resources at hand -- a typical week may see yoga classes, a volleyball or dodgeball tournament, trivia night, a stroll over to ISAF headquarters for pizza, a farewell gathering at the Embassy's Duck 'N Cover watering hole, dinner in town with local contacts, an official reception hosted by one of the five Ambassadors, or a night on the couch with the latest Netflix.

And then it's time to do it all again tomorrow…



August 13, 2010

"Citizen" writes:

Netflix ships to Afghanistan? Whodathunkit.

Do you get your DVD's on the next business day???

New Mexico, USA
August 13, 2010

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@Jessica, one thing that has bothered me and a lot of other folks is the number of street kids that beg to support their family unit.

Do me a favor if you would and see if the agro folk (no pun intended)would formulate a working plan to put these kids to work planting trees in the city, organized by the Afghan government as a way for them to have an effect on their own future -lot less gritty-environment.

The hillsides are will require older folks as it may not seem to be hard work at first to plant seedlings all day long, but most only think of "gravey acres" -no rocks, no hard-pack, stuff trees love to help anchor roots with.

Hard manual labor actually with a ho-dag (pickax with a 4" blade on one side 90 degrees to the handle)

The inner workings of daily life are facinating but hey, you can walk to work, no commute. Folks at home might envy you.

And I gotta tell you about a spec. forces guy that was making my subway sandwich while he was home on leave...State trooper in line ahead of me and they were talking about Afghanistan.

Trooper's thinking of goin' and this 20 year old was just giving a brief description of what he'd experienced (I won't go into here other than HALO), and the trooper was looking a little I pipe up and say "I'd love to go, way things are in the hood I'd be safer there anyway, least I could shoot back legal."

Trooper just stares at me with this look like "He can't be serious, can he?" So I grinned before he considered me "suspect".


Well that's the home-front up front for you, and yeah I'd do it for the high adventure of doin' history right, but maybe skip the HALO this thing about hights.

Too old and slow to keep up with young tigers anyway.

At least what they tell me.

Non military only way to go.

Have paintbrush, will travel.

Omar S.
Arkansas, USA
August 13, 2010

Omar S. in Arkansas writes:

This really sounds interesting, Ive seen the mission Personal in Cairo, Egypt they had very fascinating lives but after looking at this well i have a change of heart.

God bless our serving men and woman and keep them away from harm.


New York, USA
August 13, 2010

Ron in New York writes:

Security Breach....?

Wow...this highly detailed description of the US Embassy Compound in Afghanistan really gives me the willies,,,,why on earth would State walk us around; give us a blow-by-blow, and give us time schedules on Dipnote? Why not just paint a neon bullseye on it for any interested Taliban insurgents. Come on folks,
don't you know what's going on all around you?

DipNote B.
August 13, 2010

DipNote Bloggers reply:

It's a valid point, Ron, and it certainly could be the case, if individual schedules or new information were shared. But facility security is always a priority, which is why the entry only says that people arrive to work in the morning, eat lunch at mid-day, and leave in the late afternoon or evening (and, of course, that security teams are in position -- "as always")!

Maryland, USA
August 14, 2010

Patrick in Maryland writes:

I think, Your observations on the daily life of people working at Embassy Kabul,are very interesting. I think it would be an exciting work place. You must meet a lot of people from different countries.That have come to the Embassy for different reasons.:)

Anyways, i'v never seen a Government employee move so fast.hehe :):)

Nice Posting, Jessica and Daniel ...

New York, USA
August 16, 2010

Ron in New York writes:

Pull this Dip-piece.....

Shake and Bake?

Duck and Cover?

I still think you are asking for it.

This piece plays into the whole arrogance issue...why poke a sharp stick in the eye of extremists?

Remember the UN Compound strike?

Joseph m.
August 24, 2010

Joseph M. in Kenya writes:

I want to be part of your team

Mark D.
Idaho, USA
August 25, 2010

Mark V. in Idaho writes:

Public Diplomacy Officer Partner Outreach

August 29, 2010

Nathnael T.W. in Ethiopia writes:


DipNote Bloggers reply:
Nathnael, there are many NGOs (non-governmental organizations) doing terrific work in Afghanistan, and you do not need to be a U.S. citizen to work for them. However, you will need to apply to them directly.

August 31, 2010

Joseph in Uganda writes:

I would love to work in tha embassy

Delaram D.
August 31, 2010

D. in Afghanistan writes:

I am always amused when I read about the "hardships" of the folks at the Embassy in Kabul. I lived for three months on a small FOB in Helamnd Province and 9 months in a police compound in Delaram District with 25 Marines, 30 Afghan National Police (mostly incompetent), 40 georgian soldiers and the distrct governor. We ate MREs, did foot patrols through the bazaar daily, encountered our share of IEDs and had the mayor shot in front of our compound last January. The stabilization effort would be much more effective if you moved many of the Emassy strap hangers out of their airconditioned apartment and sent them to the district centers to work on governance, capacity development, rule of lawe, economic development and security issues. But then they would miss the volleyball, spas, pool parties, steaks, driving around Kabul and attending parties, and drinks at the Duck and Cover. And these folks get the same hardship pay and hazardous duty pay as us folks in the field at the PRTs and DSTs. Hmmmmm...If people think we are going to win this war in the halls of Kabul rather than the dusty districts of Afghansiatn, they are sadly mistaken. Look at the Marine CAP units in Vietnam as well as CORDS.

Dawood F.
September 8, 2010

Dr. Dawood F. in Pakistan writes:

aslam u alekum,
I am an Afghani but i born in pakistan and now I am an medical officer in a hospital in Quetta i like to work in afghanistan to serve the afghan but my parents did n't allow me to work in afghanistan because of peace.

September 16, 2010

Ibrar in Afghanistan writes:

i want a job.

California, USA
September 20, 2010

Nigina in California writes:

My name is Nigina, I am interested to work in Afghanistan. I am living in California. Originally i am from Tajikistan. I have work experience with United Nations in Tajikistan specially in developing and increasing women living in very difficult part of Tajikistan like in Afghanistan. I know Farsi, Russian, Badakhshani and English languages. how could i get the opportunity to work in Afghanistan. i am familiar with women society in that country. I need your help and assistance.
With warm regards.

DipNote Bloggers reply: Nigina -- and others -- the Embassy in Afghanistan posts all its job openings on its website, here:

Muammad K.
September 23, 2010

Muammad W.K. in Pakistan writes:

I would like to work in afghanistan

September 25, 2010

Lia in Georgia writes:

i would like to fined the job in afganistan or othe bases of us

santhosh r.
United Arab Emirates
September 26, 2010

Santhosh R. in the United Arab Emirates writes:

i wanna job at eraq or afghan. i am ready to do any job ,i ahve 2 years experience of data rntry operator.

September 27, 2010

Prabaharan in India writes:

i want any jop

Pennsylvania, USA
September 27, 2010

Angaar in Pennsylvania writes:

hi i like to in kabul only logistics i hard work i did interpeter job the usmc in farah and suth helman i was so happy in my job i was walking ewray day 25 km i speek pashto farsi urdu and english thank you good luck ewray one

Anastacia M.
September 28, 2010

Anastacia K.M. in Afghanistan writes:

Iwould like to work in afganistan.

shivanani b.
September 29, 2010

Shivanani B. in Afghanistan writes:

good morning sir
this is shivanani from india i want to do job in your company please give one opportunity
i'm looking for computer hardware & networking
side if any vacancy please contact me
think you sir

Ghulam N.
September 30, 2010

Ghulam N. writes:

I ned a job

DipNote B.
October 1, 2010

DipNote Bloggers write:

It's wonderful that so many people are interested in working in Afghanistan! This post was not soliciting applications, however. All vacancies at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul are posted publicly and can be viewed here:

Other civil service/contract positions can be found here:

There are also many excellent NGOs operating in Afghanistan. However, you will need to apply directly to them.


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