Operation Enduring Freedom, the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan which started on October 7, 2001 officially ended its combat mission last Sunday, December 28, 2014, marking the formal end to our longest war in history. In 2015, a follow-on mission, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, is set to begin, “to help secure and build upon the hard-fought gains of the last 13 years.” According to the WSJ, some 18,000 foreign troops—about 10,600 of them American—are staying under the terms of two security pacts the Afghan government signed with the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization this year.
There goes the cue for our scheduled exit.
The clock is ticking but we’ve got a few hours for one more story. Did we ever tell you how this blog came to be? No?
Well, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …two things happened in unrelated order. One, there was a town hall meeting organized by DGHR to talk about Assignment Iraq with the press in attendance.
[Direct assignment] notices, which most diplomats first learned about from the news media as the e-mails sat in their office computers over the weekend, appeared to have catalyzed unease that has been swirling through the Foreign Service over issues that include Iraq, underfunding and inadequate recruitment, perceived disrespect from the U.S. military and the job performance of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
What could go wrong? I watched the fallout of that and thought, holy gracious macaroni, the American public has no idea why FS personnel asked those questions. And to this day, I still do not know know how many DGHRs went on to serve in war zones after twisting the arms of ordinary folks to do so.
Two, I was overseas. There was not much to do or see, and I was awful at quilting or painting. I was bored to death talking to two cats every day! Believing that an inactive brain accumulates rust and gradually is reduced to soft crumbling powder — well, I did not want any of that. It was a depressing time. I figured I could start a blog and try to learn something new everyday or I could make friends with Bourbon, Scotch and Rye.
I started Diplopundit and stuck with coffee.
My first blogpost went up on March 12, 2008. It was about prospective retirees and how to contact Congress about their unused sick leave. To blog about the kind of topics I was interested in meant I had to do it anonymously to preclude subjecting loved ones and friends to potential pressure and blowback. In practical terms, it also means I could not brag about the blog, could not put it on my resume, could not use it to gain favors in real life (don’t laugh! An FSO friend already called this ‘a first world problem’)…
Anyway, one time, I received a rant via email, and I blogged this: If You Can’t Walk Your Own Dog …Get a Fish.I could not tell who sent that rant, but I was at one post where the COM behaved in a similar fashion with similar reactions. It was good thing no one forced the mission to pick a motto or “follow the leader” would have been most laughable. At one post, during the embassy’s Christmas bazaar, the ambassador’s secretary and an official residence employee were tasked with selling crafts owned by the ambassador’s wife. During office hours. Nobody was nutty enough to say anything.
One day, the Office of Inspector General came for a routine inspection. The team had its own phone and email. I called for an appointment. I was told somebody would call me back. The next thing I knew, the team had left post. I was to learn later that a friend on the Country Team who was juggling three jobs and had spent considerable time preparing files and folders for the inspection team barely was given time with the inspectors. No one was interested in his folders.
Months later, the OIG inspection report was released and post was mercifully declared perfect.
Those are a few of the things that shaped the formative period of this blog.
So that’s the story, no one went after me with an ax, not much of a thriller, huh?
Aaaand, the end of the blue line is here and dammit…I’m running out of Kleenex.
The attempt to save this blog is ongoing, and the friends of the blog who have been working mighty hard remain hopeful. But I’ve got to get off this train for now. I’ve made a promise to brush up the old resume and pound the sidewalk somewhere. If things work out, I hope to relaunch this site. If they don’t, I may need to buy more shoes!
In either case, I’ve enjoyed being your opinionated blogger and monitor of things, um …undiplomatic. To those who patiently answered my questions, and to those who were kind enough to share their experience and perspective, my grateful appreciation. To all, thank you sincerely for your interest and support over the years. Domani spero. Mwah!
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