Thinking of our foreign service families in Afghanistan

If you’ve been away from the news lately, there is a tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan. Below is a summary of the events leading up to the situation in Kabul.

It was a preferred posting for U.S. diplomats until 1979 when Amb. Adolph Dubs was kidnapped then killed by pro-Soviet police. The Peace Corps & USAID were sent home, and the U.S. mission greatly diminished to just dozens of people.


Ten months later, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, the embassy was reduced to being a “listening and reporting post.” On Jan 31, 1989, with the Soviets gone and civil war imminent, it was evacuated on newly-sworn-in SecState Baker’s order.


That day, Marine Sec Guard James Blake left in the chancery a note with a U.S. flag. It read: “Take care of it. For those of us here, it means a lot; for those of you yet to enter Kabul, it could mean a lot to you. We Kabul marines endured, as I'm sure you will.''


For 12 years, 60 Afghan colleagues took turns watching and taking care of the embassy grounds. They tended to the gardens and ensured the chancery was left alone. They were frequently jailed and rocketed. (More in this @amywaldman @nytimes story)


In Oct 2001, the Taliban tried to break into the chancery, firing into the front doors' bullet-proof glass, but they never got inside. After the Taliban fell, Marines entered the chancery again and found a place frozen in time — and the flag and note from Blake.


That flag was raised at the Dec. 18, 2001 embassy re-opening. I was sworn in at the same flagpole two years later. Some of my colleagues had also served in the 70s & 80s, eager to return to Afghanistan, to do all possible for a new U.S. diplomatic and development mission


We worked grueling hours, driven by a deep belief that our work was essential, buoyed by so many gains, even though the bullet-ridden chancery front doors reminded us of the Taliban threat. The embassy grew dramatically in capacity and size the next decade.


In 2003, we were roughly 100 ppl. By 2010, with the civilian surge, it swelled to roughly 1,500. Thousands of Americans have served at this embassy. Many colleagues served repeated tours the last 15 years, by choice. Thousands of Afghans have worked side by side with us.


I can't imagine the stress at the embassy today. I can't imagine the terror our Afghan friends, colleagues who believed in us, watched over us & our sacred embassy space must feel. That flag has meant everything to us. Please keep thinking of them, thank them, don't forget them


A clarification. The U.S. must get our Afghan colleagues and allies out. The mission the last 20 yrs would’ve been nothing without them. #EvacuateNow = everyone: the U.S. officials, yes — but also scores of Afghans who supported the U.S. mission needing SIVs

And Afghans needing other emergency visas because of their commitment to advancing democracy & civil society through journalism, NGOs, human rights, more. Them & their families. Grateful to former colleagues trying to make this happen #AfghanLivesMatter
#SaveAfghans #HelpAfghans

Originally tweeted by Katherine Brown (@_KatherineBrown) on August 15, 2021.