In August, 2009, I applied to a government law enforcement contractor. I filled out a number of forms, was fingerprinted, and acquired a physical and dental examination. All this under a semi-urgent attitude by the company -- usually "this must be completed within 48 hours."
In late September I was deemed qualified by both the company and the State Department (DofSt.), and I was offered the position, subject to State Dept. final approval of my background. I filled out an abbreviated background statement (SF-85 -- a mere 28 pages) showing where I was and what I did for the past seven years, military history, police record, etc. The company had already done a very thorough background check, but the DofSt. insists on also going through the SF-85 process. It turns out that what the DofSt. requires for my position is not really another D ofSt. background check -- It amounts to a statement that they have no objection to my being hired. You would think this would happen quite quickly. You would be wrong.
The company said they expected it to be done in two to six weeks and was fairly insistent that I be ready to deploy in early Dec. The company was also wrong. My SSF-85 was complete in early Oct. I got the notice that the St. Dept. had approved me (no objection) on Jan. 6th (almost 90 days). As far as I have been able to determine, they did not contact a single person I mentioned in the SF-85. Go figure. Not a big inconvenience to me since I have a comfortable retirement annuity and am spending my waiting time in Thailand -- good weather, good food, good golfing, and friendly people. But, had I known, I could have taken that golfing trip to New Zealand, studied Thai or one of the Afghan languages, or signed up for that ballet class that I've always wanted to attend (this last one is an attempt at humor).
Anyway, I'm now ready to travel to Afghanistan, right? Wrong. Now my employer has to request a letter of authorization (to travel) from the DofSt. While we are waiting for that authorization, we learn that I can no longer get the proper visa in Dubai. Conferences occur about this situation and, in late Jan., it is determined that I will definitely not be able to get a visa there. On Jan 28th I apply for a second passport at the US Consulate in Chiang Mai.
The second passport was granted but has to be printed in the USA. I applied on Thursday the 28th of January and had the passpot in my hand the next Tues., the 2nd of Feb. This is the same agency that took nearly ninty days to decide that they had no objection to my background.
I sent the passport by UPS to my company on Tuesday, and they had it in hand Friday. Their visa service promises two day service. I'm almost there, right? Wrong. The big blizzard has hit the East coast and the Afghan embassy shut down. About a week after the passport arrived at the company, their passport service got it to the Afghan embassy. They expect to have it back to me in about a week, and I will travel to Afghanistan the 24th.
By the way, Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I am waiting, is close to the "Golden Triangle" -- the area where Thailand, Burma, and Laos come together. The Golden Triangle used to be the primary local for production of the world's opium supply -- that local is now Afghanistan. How the poppy crop here was reduce may contain lessons useful in Afghanistan -- and likely the counter narcotics people there are aware of those lessons. I requested a meeting with the DEA here in Chiang Mai to help educate myself, but they did not respond.
Anyway, I have my visa and my tickets. While I'm waiting I will prepare a blog post about the sad sad situation of the repatriation of the "Jungle Hmong" from Thailand to an almost certain brutal reception back in Laos.