The Foreign Service Journal, April 2020

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | APRIL 2020 53 K nowledge of major languages for national security, diplomatic stability and interna- tional reliability is as important as bearing arms in war zones. Apart from serving the purpose of communication, languages are also recognized as powerful security enablers in diplomatic settings. Take Kabul, Afghanistan, for instance, where the challenge of protecting the most vulnerable places—like the U.S. embassy, where I am presently posted—is multifaceted and, as elsewhere, local employees are a vital part of the security team on the ground. Here’s how an “English for Work” program launched in 2018 made a difference for the Gurkha Guard Force, a unit of Nepali soldiers critical to Kabul embassy security. The improvement in their English-language fluency, in turn, raised the efficiency and effectiveness of the mission’s security system overall. Communications and Security It is no secret that not being able to communicate effectively The Power of LANGUAGE Krishna Sharma is a vetting specialist and linguist who has served at U.S. Embassy Kabul’s Regional Security Office since February 2018. Here's how an “English for Work” program improved security in Kabul. BY KR I SHNA SHARMA or misunderstanding crucial information can be detrimental in sensitive situations. The inability to communicate clearly and precisely can delay the execution of critical tasks and increase risk for diplomats and others working to bring peace to politically volatile places. Besides making English proficiency one of the prerequisites for local nationals recruited as security guards, the Department of State has employed scores of Dari-, Pashto- and English-speaking interpreters to help establish and ensure better communication in Afghanistan. This is essential so that guards can effectively carry out the task of securing the International Green Zone from the Islamic State and the Taliban at a time when multiple complex attacks are occurring right at the border of the zone. The Taliban, IS, Daesh and the Haqqani network, among others, have never ceased concentrating their violent focus on the Afghan capital. Third-country nationals (TCNs)—such as Gurkha Guard Force personnel—have to meet even harsher selection criteria for this critically important mission. A background investigation, security investigation and physical efficiency battery, or PEB; weapons qualifications and previous battlefield experience; and English- language proficiency all are a must for these TCNs. In Kabul, the Gurkha Guard Force has been a critical part of the embassy security force for the past 14 years. The GGF has a storied history of bravery, honesty, diligence and distinction for a peaceful world order that stretches fromWorld War I to today. Commonly known as “men of action rather than words,” they FEATURE