Portal - March/April 2021

PORTAL FOCUS: South Asia

Paxton International Finds Success in Afghanistan

 

By Tera Beatty, Senior Administrative Assistant, and William Linnoila, Marketing Administrator, Paxton International

Paxton International is a 4th generation family-owned and operated logistics firm specializing in difficult relocations to and from conflict and post-conflict areas and emerging markets. The very nature of this niche line of work has led us to grow organically, opening offices in response to our client’s need—often in destinations few other American companies dare to go. Our Afghanistan office began exactly this way nearly 20 years ago in 2002, opening to service the U.S. Government in a market where no established moving companies yet existed. Paxton Afghanistan began with just two employees and a truck, and has since expanded to 50 employees providing logistics services to service major government contractors, small non-profits and other clients in the marketplace.

When we first began, our biggest challenges were standard fare for a new office: staffing, navigating legal requirements, improving efficiency, ensuring customer service and setting goals and objectives for the coming year. We knew our biggest asset would be our team, so we didn't want to start an office and then staff it with foreign nationals; we wanted local employees. Why local? Because they understand the ins and outs of society and the culture on the ground. You can learn which documents are required to move the shipment, but truly understanding distinctions of a culture, like which holidays are essential to the local community and then supporting and honoring these cultural nuances, yields a different result. Staffing locally led us to find some fantastic employees, some of whom are still with us today. And in 2008 we were extremely proud to welcome our first female employees who joined us in tapping on the glass ceiling that still prevails in the region. We have come a long way over the last 20 years thanks to our team who have given us crucial insights to help drive our success in the market.

Today, our full-service office in Afghanistan caters to a large community of foreign nationals who are in-country supporting local development efforts. Our office handles everything from imports and exports down to smaller local moves. We also support the relief and development community in Afghanistan and, as a result, have shipped everything from construction supplies to fish ponds and chicken coops. As the needs of the market have grown, so have our services. Our office has continued to grow and evolve to serve the needs of the community in Afghanistan.

But success in this market has not come easily. Truth be told, there is simply no way to anticipate the myriad of obstacles that you will encounter when servicing some markets. This segment of the market is admittedly not for everyone. Business can be humming along with staff optimistic, and then all can change in the blink of an eye. Our office’s continual challenge in Afghanistan and within the Afghan community itself has been the continued struggle with the ever-changing security situation.

Afghanistan is a culturally rich country with a difficult past—entrenched in a continued state of war for over four decades. The conflict continues to flare up and die down, but has never entirely been resolved. As a result, security issues are a constant concern, from screening employees to securing the necessary clearances to enter into green-zone areas. It is an understatement to say that the job can be a dangerous one, and we’ve had to switch gears time and again to ensure the safety of our teams and customers as our office continues to overcome the various struggles posed by a government that is continually in a state of flux.

The ongoing political and social situation impacts us even today where at present there are currently very few companies running international airfreight into and out of Afghanistan. Add on top of this the global pandemic, which made 2020 an incredibly challenging year. Many compounds served by our local office, including the U.S. Embassy, shut down to prevent the spread of the virus, and a lot of projects came to a screeching halt. Even with all of these challenges, Paxton’s Afghanistan Office has continued to persevere.

We are incredibly proud that we were able to accept and continue to complete every HHG move safely in 2020, while continuing to provide excellent service. And, we even managed to have some fun every once in a while—last year we were excited to bring a little taste of home to Americans working in Afghanistan by delivering Girl Scout cookies. And we were delighted to expose the local community to the mission of the Girl Scouts.

Our commitment to those who rely upon us compels us to continue finding solutions. Paxton's team has built a reputation around the ability to manage, contain and defuse a variety of risks encountered in conflict and post-conflict zones. We continue to train our crews, look for ways to improve on the work that we are doing in Afghanistan and hone the technical expertise developed over the last several decades in the market. Our goal is ultimately to provide the same level of service to customers in Afghanistan as they've come to expect in Europe and North America, despite the very different obstacles faced. Our expert staff’s dedication to finding solutions designed to meet the needs of a diverse client base in an ever-changing world market is what keeps customers returning to use Paxton Afghanistan over and over again, in addition to the daily services we perform in the United States, Europe, Asia and Latin America. 

Paxton Image of Salang Pass

Salang Pass—Major mountain pass connecting northern Afghanistan with Pakistan

Some of the Paxton Kabul Team

Some of the Paxton Kabul Team