‘Hamish, this is Archie – Chief of Operations in the Helmand PRT. We’re looking forward to getting you out here in a few days, but there’s been a slight change of plan. We now need you to head out to the district of Musa Qal’eh. Lots of good work to be done. See you soon.’

Thus began my unlikely adventure as a Stabilisation Adviser for the notorious district of Musa Qal’eh. Just one week in, I’m beginning to grasp the significance of a role inherited from an illustrious line of ‘Stabads’. Richard Jones first deployed into the aftermath of Operation Snakebite – the hard-fought but ultimately successful mission to retake the District in December of 2007. His six-month stint, enduring frequent mortar and rocket attacks, laid the initial groundwork for a reconstruction effort that is central to the District’s future.

My immediate predecessor, Mike McKie, arrived mid-2009 to build on eighteen months of hard work. His efforts – in partnership with two successive British brigades – have yielded remarkable progress in advance of the recent handover to US command.

The scale of the challenge however – and my remit – remains daunting; to support efforts to build Afghan security forces, to help improve governance across the District, to restore basic services such as water, sanitation and power, and to develop health and education facilities.

On top of all of this, Archie cunningly waited till I arrived to drop into casual conversation that my remit would also encompass that of the neighbouring District of Now Zad. With all that has come before me in these iconic places, his parting words made me smile; ‘You’ll love it.’