If there’s one thing I’ve learned since being here it’s that things can change in a heartbeat. Especially when those things involve Secretary of State John Kerry.
One month ago, there was a rumor. He might be coming. He hasn’t been to Central Asia yet and it’s long overdue. The last time we had an S visit was in 2011 when Secretary Clinton came around.
Three weeks ago it was deemed a slim to none chance. He’s a busy man after all, and there are other important matters in the world requiring his attention.
Two weeks ago it was again highly likely. We had a tentative itinerary which included an overnight stay in Dushanbe.
Then, just over a week ago, it was happening. Chargé d’affaires Leslie Hayden announced it at the top of a seemingly-ordinary Monday morning country team meeting: We are getting an S visit.
We had assignments. For everything. Security, press, hotel, motorcade, baggage, airport, meet and greet. You name it, there was likely someone assigned as the key contact and control officer.
We had an advance team coming. A special plane was flying in specifically to bring equipment we would need. We had about 12 hours on the ground and needed to pack his schedule with the most important things, including a bilateral meeting with President Emomali Rahmon. Everything else was all but put on hold. He was coming.
Then suddenly things came to a near-screeching halt. As I said, he’s a busy man and duty, as it often does, called. He was needed in Europe for a summit about the Syrian refugee crisis. Our 12 hour overnight got cut down to just about three hours on the ground. Just enough time to meet with the President and turn around and fly out.
And, meet with the Embassy community.
It was the second time I’d been in the room with a Secretary of State. He only had time for a “drive-by” meet and greet that lasted all of seven minutes but, in my opinion, it was very cool to see him in real life. His picture hangs in the entryway of the Embassy (along with President Obama and Vice President Biden). All the work we are doing here is for those three individuals. I for one was grateful for him and his staff making sure he at least stopped by and said hello.
We also had to make sure he picked up the Tajik dolls for his granddaughters.