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ISO a small, safe hotel in Kabul

By Walter Pincus

Although downtown Kabul has the four-star Hotel Serena, the U.S. government is looking for something smaller, but still secure -- a boutique hotel for visiting VIPs.

A request last week from the Interior Department's National Business Center specified attributes for a "fully furnished (to include air conditioning) turnkey housing facility in a secure and protected area at the executive three- to four-star quality levels (or above)."

It also must be "in close proximity (meaning not requiring secure transportation)" to the U.S. Embassy, the headquarters of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Camp Eggers, which houses many of the U.S. military commanders.

All three of those facilities, along with President Hamid Karzai's presidential palace, are situated within what's called "the bubble," Kabul's smaller version of Baghdad's Green Zone, where access is restricted and people can walk relatively freely.

The facility being sought also exist -- no construction appears to be contemplated. The notice requires the facility to have a closed circuit television monitoring system that allows viewing of "the entire perimeter and surrounding area" from a central operations room that is to be manned on a 24-hour basis. Also required are guards from a private security contract registered with the Ministry of Interior.

But it is the detailed interior necessities, outlined in the notice, that could only have been put together by a government bureaucrat.

The beds in each "hotel-style room" shall be Queen-sized, have four pillows, a comforter, blanket and sheet set with "matching color and pattern." There should be two night stands, two bedside lamps and a wardrobe. The carpet is to be at least 8' by 10' and the flat-screen television must be 27" or larger with a DVD and connection to "Orbit Satellite Full package cable service." There also must be a desk and chair plus access to internet -- "wireless preferred" -- plus a telephone with international calling capability. And a sitting chair. And a mini-refrigerator "2.5 to 4.5 cu.ft."

The bathroom in each room is to be outfitted with two towels, two washcloths, two hand towels, a toilet plunger, toilet brush in caddy and trash receptacles.

There must be a common living room with matching couch and loveseat, a coffee or end table, a floor lamp and a flat-screen television (this time 42") with a DVD and cable connection.

The common dining room must be able to seat from eight to 15 people; have a cook preparing meals three times a day between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. with meat served at each meal as well as a vegetarian option. There should be place setting and utensils for eight, but enough plates, cups, saucers, bowls, coffee mugs and flatware for 20.

The contractor is to supply all food and kitchen equipment as well as custodial service to keep up the living spaces.

Beyond the living and dining areas, the facility is to have office space to accommodate four work stations, a laser printer-copier-fax-scanner device, and a conference room that can handle 10 to 12 people.

Perhaps the meetings held there will address how to wind down the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.

By Walter Pincus  | November 10, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
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