“A special event, for a special tribute, to a special man”

Lt Gen Sir Nick Parker leaves HQ ISAFThat is how General David Petraeus described Tuesday’s events at Headquarters ISAF in Kabul.

His second-in-command has come to the end of his 10-month posting here. Lt Gen Sir Nick Parker is going home and will be taking up the post of Commander-in-Chief Land along with a promotion to 4-star.

The grassy patch outside the distinctive pink and yellow Headquarters building in the heavily fortified compound that houses the men and women running the coalition’s campaign in Afghanistan was busier than normal today. Bedecked with rows of chairs, with ceremonial tunes wafting over from the band under the gazebo in the corner, the patch of land in the centre of Kabul had something of a well-to-do garden party. Everyone who was anyone was there, representatives from every coalition country, Afghan hosts, civilian as well as military.

The speeches were heartfelt; you got the impression that the two men really got on and have enjoyed working together. General Petraeus thanked his British number two for his “wise counsel”, praised his “stoicism and unflagging composure”, and credited his “pithy sense of humour” for keeping him sane in moments of high pressure.

He had to draw the line though at Gen Parker’s obsession with “some long-running soap” (his dogs are called Rita and Mavis and some of the most important decisions of the campaign have been made over a Coronation Street mug), drawing cackles from the audience with an “it takes all kinds”. Having never watched an episode of Corrie myself, I’m inclined to agree.

Despite this unhealthy addiction to the cobbles up north, Gen Parker along with his American boss left Will (my new partner-in-crime; Cath has abandoned me for the sunny shores of Cyprus) and me not a little starstruck.

For some people it’s Tom Cruise in Leicester Square. For these two Defence spotters, it was the two General Ps at HQ ISAF.

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