People have been asking about what I'm doing over here for work...
I work in the strucural engineering group here at Qalaa House. We review drawings, calculations, plans, etc. for all types of structures to be built around the country. If the designer forgot to consider something in his/her design, we let them know and have them fix it and return it to us before something gets improperly built and someone gets hurt. There are 6 of us. Similarly, all building materials must meet a number of standards for strength and quality, we review all this information before the contractor gets the OK to start building.
Buildings for the ANP (Afghan National Police) are being constructed all over the country so they have police stations, jails, court houses,training facilities, etc in even the remote towns. The idea is that a well-trained, well-equipped police force can keep intimadating forces like Al Qaeda out of areas long after the U.S. leaves. When you consider that Afghanistan didn't have much of a police force or police stations of any kind until about pretty recently...and we need to build them all from scratch...it is quite a large number of facilities.
Similarly, we are building structures for the ANA (Afghan National Army) so they have bases to store and maintain equipment, train, etc.
Also, we are building compounds for the MOI (Ministry of Interior) so they have a centralized place where the government can continue to manage all aspects of the army, police, immigration, and law and order after we're gone.
There is no shortage of work over here...and there is a limited amount of time for us to review this stuff. Typically, we only have about a day or two to review everything related to a project before we have to get back to the designer with our comments.
The most annoying part of my job is that everything is given to us in the metric system. Stress is in megapascals, MPa, pressure is in kg/sq.cm, dimensions are in meter and mm. It takes a bit to figure out if their numbers are reasonable or not as I have to convert everything in to English units first.
One really amazing thing that happened the other day is that we awarded a construction project to a woman-owned construction firm...maybe the first in this country's history. There are a number of people here that work in "capacity development"...teaching/empowering people and putting things and people in place so that the work that gets done while we're here can sustain itself after we leave. There are lots of people working in capacity development: Corps of Engineers people as well as lots of aid workers from many countries. Capacity development comes in many forms...I'm definitely not the best person to speak to all that has been done in this area. But, from my understanding, until very recently it was very rare in Afghanistan for businesses to be owned and operated by women...even more rare to have a woman-owned construction firm. But, we awarded the contract and are excited to see what becomes of it. I've been told that this woman has literally risked her life to establish her own buisiness and compete for work.
There are many different opinions regarding whether or not we, the US Govt., should be spending the money, time and energy that we are to help this country. I'm very lucky that I'm not a politician and not part of any of these decisions...I'm just trying to do the very best that I can over here to make sure that structures that get built can withstand many many years of use. The rest is up to others...