Dispatches from Iraq, Part 15
Athens, Greece - August 24, 2004
That's right. I am currently in Greece spending my first R&R and hitting the Olympics. I left Baghdad for Kuwait last Friday and arrived in Athens Saturday morning. Although I have been enjoying my work there, it is certainly good to take a break. Before I left, things were coming to a head with Sadr and the situation was getting tense. Now, it seems so far away although I will be back soon enough.
Presently, I am visiting close friends from my graduate school days at Carnegie Mellon. It is a great joy to relate to good friends in person the adventures I have been having. One of my friends, Alejandro, just arrived from Kabul where he is working with the UN to reestablish the customs services. There are vast differences between our work and the respective situations but there are also tremendous similarities! For instance, both operations face the challenge of dealing with multiple stakeholders and competing claims of interest. Additionally, we also both face the fact of dealing with governments that are very limited in their control of their respective countries. It also seems that the creation of the both governments is a similar process. In Afghanistan, they held the Loya Jirga. In Iraq, we recently held the National Conference. Both bodies were made up of a large number of representatives from throughout the country and both were responsible for providing legitimacy to the present government. Both governments face the challenge of insurgents and armed groups unwilling to take part in the political process. Although Iraq has dominated the news for the last year, we cannot forget Afghanistan. Failure there will have consequences for Iraq and likewise the other way round.
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