“Good to see you mate. It’s been a long time”. Angus, the district Political Officer and the other half of our Stabilisation Team greeted me as I stepped off the military transport, fresh from two weeks leave. He looked ever so slightly haggard – the usual spring in his step a shade less energetic than I remembered.

But then I waved him off – it was now his turn and he’d earned it. It sounded a tough time, and he gleefully wished me well as he departed. I was just a little daunted at the prospect of coordinating stabilisation efforts across two districts solo.

My first day is a maelstrom, awaking to the deep boom and shudder of an explosion. The nearby bazaar had been attacked using a motorcycle converted into a lethal homemade bomb, killing five innocent civilians. A cowardly, insidious act.

We immediately convened a meeting with the Government – where my worries deepened learning of the District Governor’s absence, away now for over four weeks and leaving precious few officials to deal with such crises. We made plans for the swift repair of the blast site and search for those responsible. We also met with the Afghan National Police to strengthen security around the Governor’s compound.

But things don’t slow down for such an incident, and I am quickly embroiled in a whirlwind of briefings to catch up on the myriad of latest events… the town’s generator has run out of fuel and the contractor has disappeared. Insurgents have launched a campaign of intimidation which must be nipped in the bud. A host of construction projects are demanding my attention (and a new school has been approved for construction). The governor’s council is to be reconvened  There are land disputes to be resolved and I learn that a young girl has been sold to pay for her father’s drug addiction. A recent counter-narcotics themed volleyball match between marines and local students has been an unbridled success (much relief at this news). It goes on.

And endless administrivia sits waiting impatiently. Reports, budgets, reviews, workplans are all buried within a morass of emails.

By midnight, its been a mind-numbing 11 meetings, and my leave is a distant memory. Its been a long first day back in Musa Qal’eh.