The festive season in Musa Qala is passing relatively peacefully and so we have been able to enjoy a little Christmas cheer in the camp. Christmas Eve saw my military stabilisation team colleagues and I introducing our Afghan friends and colleagues to the traditions of a British Christmas - Santa, gifts, turkey and alcohol-free beer. Our local friends had located some turkeys and the District Governor's cook was tasked to "halal" the birds and cooked them into some sort of brown curry-type meal. It was delicious. Thanks to our various families' welfare parcels we were able to pool our goodies to show our friends such delights as mince pies, etc. And on the day itself the army chefs did us proud with real turkey and real ham, all without a hint of spam.
And what hopes do we have for the coming year? Firstly, 2009 will be election year in Afghanistan and we are busy now beginning the process of voter registration in Musa Qala. Linked to this must be our drive to reassure the local population through the improved security situation and the commitment of the Afghan government and security forces to stay the course in this part of Helmand. Later in the spring Musa Qala will have the chance to obtain some large-scale investment by the Afghan government in the form of the Afghan Social Outreach Programme. But that depends on the performance of the local authorities here so my primary task must be to mentor them through that process.
On the domestic front there has been talk of an upgrade in our living conditions here in camp with the arrival of some portakabins in place of our concrete cell, but this may be one of those things that remains just talk.
And spring 2009 will see the departure of this Battle Group and the arrival of the next one, which will be my third. The Gurkhas will be a hard act to follow.
So here's to a peaceful and prosperous 2009 in Afghanistan and elsewhere.