Category Archives: Af/Pak

Meet the New Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan – Daniel Feldman

– Domani Spero

 

The State Department recently announced that Daniel Feldman succeeded Ambassador James Dobbins as the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP).  Ambassador James Dobbins concluded his tenure July 31. The announcement says that SRAP Feldman spent his first official days as SRAP on travel to Kabul, Afghanistan where he “will reinforce President Obama’s message urging both candidates to continue their dialogue on the details of the political framework that they agreed to during Secretary Kerry’s last visit, and to accelerate the ongoing audit of ballots when it resumes August 2.”

 

Below is SRAP Feldman’s official bio via state.gov:

Daniel F. Feldman is the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP). He has served in the S/SRAP office since its creation in 2009, first as deputy and then as principal deputy to Ambassadors Richard Holbrooke, Marc Grossman, and James Dobbins. He has been deeply engaged in all aspects of U.S. policy formulation and implementation for both countries, including overseeing political transition issues, economic growth initiatives, regional integration efforts, international engagement with key partners, strategic communications, and Congressional outreach. For his service in the S/SRAP office, he was awarded the Secretary’s Distinguished Honor Award by Secretary Clinton.

Before reentering government, he was a law partner and co-chair of the international Corporate Social Responsibility group at Foley Hoag LLP, the only such legal practice in the U.S. His previous government experience includes serving as Director of Multilateral and Humanitarian Affairs at the National Security Council in the Clinton Administration, and as Counsel and Communications Adviser to the U.S. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

He was Senior Foreign Policy and National Security Advisor to the Kerry presidential campaign in 2004, communications advisor and recount attorney for the Gore campaign in 2000, and a senior campaign advisor to Senator Mark Warner. He helped to found, and subsequently served on the board of, the National Security Network, and is a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He has been appointed a White House Fellow and a Henry Luce Scholar, and was a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and on the South African Supreme (Constitutional) Court. He is a graduate of Tufts University, Columbia Law School, and Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School.

 

Last month,Alyssa Ayres, a deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia during 2010–2013 argued that the departure of Ambassador Dobbins was the perfect time to fold SRAP back into the SCA bureau. “A seamless overview of U.S. relations throughout the SCA region, and the impact of the coming drawdown in Afghanistan, would be far easier to accomplish if our focused diplomacy towards Afghanistan and Pakistan was embedded within the South and Central Asia bureau.” SRAP is one of those offices that reports directly to the Secretary of State. Obviously, the SRAP office will remain a separate entity for the next couple of years or the Secretary would not have appointed a new SRAP. Remains to be seen what changes happen after the drawdown, or under a new administration in 2017.

* * *

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Af/Pak, Afghanistan, Appointments, Assistant Secretary, Pakistan, Regional Bureaus, Special Envoys and Reps, State Department, U.S. Missions

U.S. Embassy Iraq: By The Numbers — Still The Post With the Mostest

– Domani Spero

The New Embassy Compound (NEC) in Baghdad was the most expensive construction in the world in 2009.  Although a fixed amount is hard to come by, it is estimated that the construction cost amounted to approximately $700 million.  In 2012, WaPo reported a $115 million embassy upgrade.  If we add that and all other State Department capital projects in Iraq from FY2011, we would have to add approximately $411 million to the cost of the USG footprint in Iraq. Despite the recent rightsizing exercise, it remains the largest, and the most expensive diplomatic mission in the world.

The 104-acre U.S. Embassy in Iraq is the largest embassy in the world not just in terms of size at 420,873 square meters, but also personnel at 5,500 (estimated Jan 2014 headcount) and operational cost at $3.23 billion in FY2012. (Note: It is not the largest site in terms of  diplomatic properties as the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center (BDSC) compound is located on a 350-acre facility adjacent to Baghdad International Airport).  A quick comparison — one of our smallest embassies, the US Embassy in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea is 1,208 square meters, so 348 US Embassy Malabo NECs would fit into Embassy Baghdad. As well, the New Embassy London is 54,000 square meters, so about 7 1/2 of them would fit into Embassy Baghdad.

It may be that in a couple of years, with the ongoing construction of the New Embassy London and New Embassy Islamabad (each may hit the $1 billion mark), Embassy Baghdad will no longer be the most expensive embassy in the world, but for now, it is still the post with the mostest.

In 2009, the OIG inspectors identified the number of factors that have contributed to the size of this Embassy:

(1) implementation of a civilian assistance program of over $24 billion;
(2) a wide-ranging capacity-building program covering most key ministries in the Iraqi National Government and, through the PRTs, all provincial governments;
(3) the legacy of running the country and then working hand-in-glove with the Iraqis as they assumed more responsibility for funding their own development;
(4) the need to coordinate with the U.S. military in practically all aspects of the Embassy’s responsibilities; and
(5) the inability to have host-country LE staff provide the support and services that they do in almost all other embassies in the world. Also, the fact that employees can take three separate 22-day long rest and recuperation trips (R&Rs) means that staffing has to be larger to ensure full coverage.

One could argue that a combination of the above reasons are also driving the size and growth of our embassies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

According to the OIG, Embassy Baghdad’s security budget in 2012 was $698 million. It notes that “As long as the staff cannot move safely and independently outside compound walls, maintaining a robust security apparatus and meeting the life support needs of the mission staff will require significantly more financial and personnel resources than at other U.S. missions.”

In 2013, the OIG inspectors warned that the large Iraq footprints, expensive to guard and maintain even after the rightsizing exercise, will strain support for diplomatic facilities worldwide when special appropriations that fund them end.

On June 16, 2014, the President transmitted a report notifying the Congress that up to approximately 275 U.S. military personnel are deploying to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Today, AFPS reports that President Obama announced plans to send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to help the government in Baghdad combat a rapid advance by Sunni-led insurgents.

Here is Embassy Iraq, by the numbers:

Screen Shot 2014-06-19

#a. Audit 2009: http://oig.state.gov/documents/organization/131069.pdf

#b. US Mission Iraq: Twelve Things You Might Not Know About the Largest Embassy in the World
#c. fedbiz.gov
#d. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embassy_of_the_United_States,_Baghdad
#e. Malabo:  http://overseasbuildings.state.gov/sites/admin-overseasbuildings.state.gov/files/pdfs/malabo_508.pdf
#f. London: http://overseasbuildings.state.gov/sites/admin-overseasbuildings.state.gov/files/pdfs/london_508.pdf
#g. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/baghdad-s-fortress-america-us-builds-bunker-of-an-embassy-in-iraq-a-511579.html
#h. OBO Inspection 2008: http://oig.state.gov/documents/organization/109074.pdf
#i.  Embassy Baghdad Inspection 2013: http://oig.state.gov/documents/organization/210403.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Af/Pak, Construction, Diplomatic Security, Foreign Service, Govt Reports/Documents, Iraq, New Embassy Compound, Pakistan, Real Post of the Month, Realities of the FS, Security, Staffing the FS, State Department, U.S. Missions, US Embassy Baghdad, War

USCG Peshawar Employee Faisal Saeed Killed in Pakistan

– Domani Spero

Pakistani news reports that two gunmen riding a motorcycle opened fire on Faisal Saeed, 30, outside his residence in Peshawar.  Senior police official Najibur Rehman reportedly identified Saeed as a former employee of the U.S. consulate in Peshawar, but the U.S. embassy in Islamabad said he was a staff member.

“Local authorities are investigating a tragic incident that has affected a Pakistani national U.S. Consulate Peshawar employee,” a U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said in a statement. “We strongly condemn this brutal and senseless death, and express our heartfelt condolences to the family,” she said.

WaPo also reported yesterday that Saeed, worked as a computer programmer at the consulate and was active in updating its Facebook page.  The report citing a friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of safety concerns, said Saeed “was talking on his phone outside of his house when two armed men shot him and fled.”

“Pakistani officials refused to speculate whether Saeed was targeted because of his affiliation with the U.S. government.”

Peshawar has been called the most dangerous post in the Foreign Service and has been in de facto draw-down during the last five years.

In 2013, the Regional Security Office released its annual Crime and Security Report detailing various attacks against post:

Western targets, in particular U.S. diplomatic premises, personnel, and vehicles, have been attacked repeatedly in Peshawar over the past several years. In 2010, the U.S. Consulate weathered a direct assault. In May 2011, a Consulate motorcade was attacked with a car bomb in the University Town neighborhood. In September 2012, another Consulate motorcade was attacked in the same neighborhood utilizing a sophisticated surveillance network and a suicide car bomb, which resulted in numerous casualties and property damage. In November 2012, two separate indirect fire (IDF) incidents were directed at the Consulate’s University Town housing compound. A number of Consulate residences sustained minor damage, and one Consulate guard was injured.

The report also notes the anti-American sentiment in the country and the apparent rise of terrorist acts in Peshawar.

Northwest Pakistan–consisting of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KP), the provincial capital of Peshawar, and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA)–is a dangerous place for all Westerners and especially American citizens. The Abbottabad raid in May 2011 that captured and killed Osama bin Laden, the 2011 NATO action on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border that resulted in the death of 24 Pakistani soldiers, and the 2011 Raymond Davis incident have inflamed anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. In 2012, there were numerous anti-American protests, including large-scale demonstrations and protests against the anti-Islamic movie, “Innocence of Muslims.” The overall number of terrorist acts in the “settled areas” of Peshawar and KP Province appear to be on the rise, particularly with attacks against local commercial and government facilities.

Active links added above.  The U.S. Consulate General Peshawar was headed by senior DS agent Robert Reed from 2012 to 2013.  In fall 2013, he was succeeded by Gabriel Escobar as consul general.  Mr. Escobar previously served as Team Leader of the State Department’s PRT in Kirkuk Province, Iraq in 2009 and 2010.

* * *

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under Af/Pak, Consul Generals, Diplomatic Attacks, Foreign Service, Locally Employed Staff, Pakistan, Realities of the FS, State Department, Terrorism, U.S. Missions

The State of Foreign Service Family Member Employment 2013 — Where Are the Jobs?

❊ If you want to help keep us around, see Help Diplopundit Continue the Chase—Crowdfunding for 2014 via RocketHub ❊


— Domani Spero

According to State/FLO, the total adult family member population of the Foreign Service in 2013 is 11,528.  This number was 9,243 in 2007 and  9,819 in 2009. Family members are 78% female and 64% are not working.  Male family members are slowly expanding in numbers; they constitute 20% of the family member population in 2007, 19% in 2009 and is up 22% last year.

Of the 36% working , 24% works inside the U.S. mission with only 12% working in the local economy. The total number of family members employed was 25% in 2009.   While more jobs have become available since 2009, the FS family member population has also expanded by 1,711 in the last four years.  Of the 64% not working  or 7,392 family members — the FLO data does not provide insight into how many of these have opted to stay home voluntarily and how many are interested in working but could not find work overseas.

We should note that the State Department has created an Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP) for family member employment.  These are professional level Foreign Service full-time positions, centrally funded by the Department of State and some through ICASS (as opposed to post-funded positions). But the program only provides “186 filled EPAP positions in total.”  Not all family members would like to work, of course, but for those interested in professional level positions, 186 EPAP positions amount to a 1.6% drop in a universe with 11,528 individuals.

The 2011-2013 data indicates that the largest number of FS family members at post is located in the EUR bureau (3,319) followed by the WHA bureau (2,716).  However, the total number of family members employed at post is highest in the South Central Asia countries, followed by posts in Africa.  The South Central Asia bureau only has 615 family members at post, the lowest number among regional bureaus but at 53%, it has the highest  number of employment among family members. The SCA bureau includes Afghanistan and Pakistan  where adult family members are allowed to accompany employees pending job availability at post and “M”bureau approval .

The top leading locations for family member employment have not changed.  As in 2009, the top leading posts for family member employment in 2013 are located in the following bureaus:

#1 South Central Asia (see posts here)

#2 Africa (see posts here)

#3 Near East Asia (see posts here)

Screen Shot 2014-02-10

Screen Shot 2014-02-10

Screen Shot 2014-02-10

Screen Shot 2014-02-10

Click on image to view the State/FLO report in pdf)

* * *

Enhanced by Zemanta

Leave a comment

Filed under Af/Pak, Foreign Service, Govt Reports/Documents, Realities of the FS, Spouses/Partners, Staffing the FS, State Department, U.S. Missions

Twelve Take Aways from Chandrasekaran’s Little America (Deadwood) Excerpt

Rajiv Chandrasekaran is a senior correspondent and associate editor at the Washington Post and author of the new book making waves, Little America: The War Within the War for Afghanistan. On June 26, an exclusive excerpt from his book titled Deadwood was published by Foreign Policy. The lead question, Why did America send its C team to Afghanistan? 

Our twelve take aways below:

  1. The US Embassy in Kabul has an invisible giant reset button that gets pushed once a year, and mission life starts anew each summer.
  2. Staff members could have done a lot more stuff (maybe answer more now emails) in Washington, DC but then they would not count as a number in the “civilian surge.”
  3. The Baghdafication of Kabul appears complete with Kabul sounding as familiar as Chandrasekaran’s Emerald City. Rajiv needs his kevlar, incoming fire starts right about now.
  4. An agency who clings fervently to mandatory age retirement for the proper functioning of the Foreign Service sent a 79-year-old man to the reconstruction team in Kandahar.
  5. When a senior State Department official told the writer, “We’re at Team C” he’s either preparing for retirement or won’t mind hate mail swamping his State Department inbox.
  6. The top State Department official in Kandahar was thrown out of the Kandahar Governor’s office and survived to order a non-disclosure agreement to protect his office’s combination lock codes from his military colleagues.
  7. Summer Coish prominently mentioned in the article may be bound for high places, just not to the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP) in Foggy Bottom. 
  8. Forty percent of U.S. government civilians who were assigned to Helmand from July 2009 to June 2010 did not last six months.
  9. By late 2010, USAID was reportedly hiring 20 new people a month to go to Afghanistan, but it was losing seventeen.  The three who remained were not desperate.
  10. A senior State Department official told the writer:  “[...] there’s enough deadwood here that it’s becoming a fire hazard.” No one has ordered a firetruck, but the State Department might order that the official’s desk be foam sprayed.
  11. Urinating on the US Embassy chancery wall or near the flagpole can get you sent home, unless you are the deputy Turkish ambassador, or someone with a small bladder who threatens to complain under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  12. Alcohol purchases at the embassy convenience store was limited to two bottles of wine or one bottle of spirits per person per day. One bottle of spirits (distilled beverage) can have as high as 40% alcohol by volume (ABV), so that’s a hell of a restriction.

Read the full article here in Foreign Policy.

Domani Spero

 

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Af/Pak, Afghanistan, Book Notes, Contractors, Foreign Assistance, Foreign Policy, Media, Special Envoys and Reps, State Department, US Embassy Kabul, USAID, War

GAO: Smuggling of Improvised Explosive Device (IED) Materials from Pakistan to Afghanistan

The GAO video below describes the threat posed by the smuggling of IED materials from Pakistan into Afghanistan. It also shows some of the key challenges to preventing such illicit commerce, both at the two official border crossing points, as well as along the rugged terrain between those border crossings.

The video is 1:27 minute short; does that say something about the short attention span of its target audience?  Below is a brief GAO summary of the accompanying 27-page report:

According to U.S. officials, U.S. agencies have encountered ongoing challenges to their efforts to assist Pakistan, such as delays in obtaining visas and in the delivery of equipment. U.S. officials have also identified broader challenges to Pakistan’s ability to counter IEDs, including the extreme difficulty of interdicting smugglers along its porous border with Afghanistan. In addition, though Pakistan developed a National Counter-IED Strategy in June 2011, it has yet to finalize an implementation plan for carrying out the strategy.

The U.S. fiscal year 2013 Mission Strategic and Resource Plan (MSRP) for Pakistan includes a new performance indicator to track some of Pakistan’s efforts to counter IEDs, but the indicator and targets used to measure progress do not cover the full range of U.S. assisted efforts. The performance indicator focuses on cross-border activities, specifically on Pakistan’s efforts to prevent illicit commerce in sensitive materials, including chemical precursors used to manufacture IEDs in Afghanistan. As such, progress of U.S. counter-IED assistance efforts not specifically linked to cross-border smuggling are not covered, such as counter-IED training and/or equipment, a counter-IED public awareness campaign, and legal assistance for laws and regulations to counter-IEDs and IED precursors. Consequently, effects of key U.S. assisted counter-IED efforts are not tracked under the existing performance indicator and related targets. The absence of comprehensive performance measures that reflect the broad range of U.S. assisted counter-IED efforts limits State’s ability to track overall progress in Pakistan to counter IEDs and to determine the extent to which these counter-IED efforts are helping to achieve the U.S. goals.

Leave a comment

Filed under Af/Pak, Afghanistan, Countries 'n Regions, Govt Reports/Documents, Pakistan, State Department, Video of the Week

Anonymous FSO: AIP Posts Not the Only Places Where FSOs Are At Risk

On June 4, we posted an excerpt from a USIP interview of an FSO who served at an Iraq PRT (read Insider Quote: AIP Fatigue and a Little Hostility). That post generated the following comment, which I am reposting up front because the writer brings up important issues about the realities of service in the Foreign Service, particularly in the post 9/11 world.

Maybe there should be a little resentment from some quarters. The AIP posts aren’t the only places where FSOs put, or have put, themselves at risk to serve their country. Yes, we should honor and reward the service of FS personnel serving in AIP. But let’s not forget those who serve, or served, in other war zones.

Not to be morbid, but has anyone compared the mortality rate for USG personnel in stationed in Ciudad Juarez to those in Kabul and Baghdad? What “incentives” do we give people currently in the Mexican border posts or Yemen (where its so dangerous that Embassy personnel are not allowed to sleep in their homes)? Or until recently in Libya and Syria?

How about officers who’ve served in Angola, Congo, DROC, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Mali, Chad, Sudan, Somalia, Zimbabwe etc. Sierra Leone and Liberia were particular garden spots. Remember when President Taylor’s troops strafed Embassy Monrovia? How about the 50 mm shells embedded in the Ambassador’s desk in Freetown after the AFRC coup (or was it the Nigerian invasion, or the RUF coup, or the Strasser coup)? We had FS personnel staffing a makeshift Embassy in Sierra Leone when DOD would not let its people visit on TDY because it was too dangerous.

Bosnia. (Just the word is enough.)

When I was in Angola, our DOD colleagues were getting combat pay; that wasn’t too long after UNITA attacked the Embassy compound. When we hitched rides into the interior on 40 year old C-130s chartered to WFP, the pilots corkscrewed into landings to make it harder for anyone with a SAM to take aim.

And what about the FS personnel who’ve lost family members, including children, because of medical, safety, traffic conditions in third world posts. When we honor service at AIP above all else, we diminish the sacrifice of those who put themselves, and sometimes their families, at risk to serve the USA in other dangerous places.

Folks might remember that State’s personnel system fell into a crisis in the post Vietnam years. At the height of the CORDS program, more than 400 FSOs were in the field with the CORDS (Civil Operations and Rural Development Support) program with over a hundred more were in language training.  According to Kopp and Gillespie, a number of those officers were “thoroughly dismayed” and left the service; those who remained with their operational skills received rapid advancement in their careers. But as they moved up the ranks, there were not enough positions to accommodate them all.  The up or out system had grown lax and midlevel officers resented the senior officers glut which frustrated the officers’ (many of them veterans of CORDS) chances for promotion.

A former FSO who recently wrote about the CORDS program (which he calls the Civil Operations and Revolutionary
Development Support) for the May 2012 issue of State Magazine, and who calls it as a success had the following tidbit:

At the FSO pre-employment oral exam, male applicants were told they stood every chance of going to war if accepted. Midcareer and senior FSOs were also sent to the front.[...] “You had a simple option,” he recalled. “If you were assigned to Vietnam and didn’t take it, you resigned your commission and left the service. It was as simple as that.”

It seems to me that early on in the Iraq War junior officers were sent to Baghdad straight out of FSI but that did not last long.  The vacancies in Iraq and Afghanistan and later Pakistan, as other assignments in the Foreign Service continued to be filled with volunteers (first tours excepted, of course).  There was that threat for “directed assignment” in 2007 with the accompanying brouhaha but that did not materialized. There was that “prime candidate” exercise, too, with letters sent out, but later died a natural bureaucratic death.

I’m tired digging up my yard to put up an edible garden today so I may be going around this in a convoluted way.  But what I think is a concern is the fracturing of the Foreign Service.  There have always been hardship and dangerous assignments in the Foreign Service.  But in the past, members of the FS can point to that collective experience of serving in places that were great, not so great, and really gadawful places on earth.  But in the years following our war of choice in Iraq, and our war of necessity in Afghanistan (I don’t know what you’d call what we’re doing in Pakistan, or Yemen, etc.), folks would be hard pressed to point to  one collective experience for all the Foreign Service.  Some FSOs with less than five years in the Foreign Service have already done two tours in the war zones. Some are heading to non war zones posts that are as perilous as any red zone.  Before too long, they will come back to a normal embassy operation, reporting in some cases to midlevel or senior officers who may have served in difficult assignments but have never done a tour in Iraq or Afghanistan where as one FSO calls it like “everything is rushing at you at 110 miles an hour.” How will that organizational relationship pans out?
Just a quick point while I’m thinking about this.  There is a distinction that is being made in the Foreign Service today: there are those who went to the war zones and there are those who did not. In a perfect world, one is either an effective officer or one is not. But we do not live in a perfect world.  Should a so-s0 Political Officer who goes to the war zone on a Hail Mary pass to get a promotion get all the carrots as opposed to a stellar Political Officer in say, the Marshall Islands?  Never mind asking why a stellar PolOff is in the Marshall Islands.  But — how does the system weigh mediocre performance in a war zone as opposed to a solid performance elsewhere in the worldwide available universe?
Then there’s this other thing.  The State Dept provides a lot of carrots to get people to go to the war zones and also hardship assignments. But the pool of volunteers is drying up. The world is getting more dangerous every day. The number of hardship and danger assignments is going up exponentially. The interviewee who talked about AIP fatigue and hostility has some unhappiness about getting the follow on or linked assignments nailed down.  Presumably, he is not the only one.
There won’t be enough carrots to go around, period.  And that will divide the Foreign Service as much as the war zone assignments.
Domani Spero

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Af/Pak, Afghanistan, Foreign Service, FSOs, Org Culture, Pakistan, Realities of the FS, War

Hamid Karzai, Our Man in Kabul — Misinterpreted Once Again!

And it’s a good thing! Because if this was not a “misinterpretation” that would make us real dummies with pet snakes in that neighborhood. 

Via HuffPo:

“If fighting starts between Pakistan and the U.S., we are beside Pakistan,” Karzai said is an interview with private Pakistani television station GEO that aired Saturday. “If Pakistan is attacked and the people of Pakistan need Afghanistan’s help, Afghanistan will be there with you.”

Here is also a snippet of a video complete with finger wagging:


The LA Times has more:

President Hamid Karzai’s office on Monday sought to distance him from controversial remarks in a television interview aired over the weekend in which he asserted that Afghanistan would side with Pakistan in a hypothetical war against the United States. The presidential palace said the Afghan leader’s comments, made in an interview with the Pakistani television station Geo, had been “misinterpreted.”
[...]
A spokesman for Karzai, Siamak Herawi, said the president had not intended any slight to the Western governments that have spent billions of dollars shoring up the Afghan administration during the 10-year war that has claimed the lives of at least 1,817 American troops.

“The media misinterpreted [Karzai’s] speech,” he said, adding that the president had been trying to express solidarity with Pakistan for having taken in millions of Afghan refugees during decades of war and the subsequent rule of the Taliban movement.

Western military officials and diplomats publicly played down the significance of Karzai’s comments, even while privately expressing varying degrees of bafflement and dismay.

Read in full here.

As long as we continue willfully misinterpreting the smoke signals being sent from over there, we’re good, right?

 
 
 
 

Leave a comment

Filed under Af/Pak, Afghanistan, Foreign Assistance, People, War

Thanks to a Hardworking Congress, Some Feds in the Garden Countries of I’Af/Pak to Lose Some Benefits

Stephen Losey of Federal Times reported last week that federal employees deployed to the I’Af/Pak region who are not in the Foreign Service have now lost numerous travel, medical and leave benefits because those benefits were not renewed by Congress after they expired Oct. 1. Excerpts:

The following benefits, which are available to Foreign Service officers, will no longer be available to non-Foreign Service personnel posted in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan, according to the Office of Personnel Management:

  • Reimbursement of travel costs when going home on leave.
  • Reimbursement of travel costs when obtaining necessary medical care when such care is not available locally.
  • Reimbursement of travel costs when evacuating family members who are in imminent danger.
  • Reimbursement of travel costs when transporting furniture and other personal effects when moving to another duty station.
  • Mandatory leave for employees who have returned home after a three-year deployment. Agencies also will no longer have the option to offer leave to employees who had served in a war zone for 18 months.
  • Medical examinations, mental health care, inoculations, vaccinations and other preventative care.
  • A death gratuity equal to one year’s salary when an employee dies of injuries sustained while supporting military operations.

Read in full here.

I have not read the OPM notice but I am presuming that these changes applies to non-Foreign Service and non-Defense employees serving in those three priority countries.

The 2010 OIG review of US Embassy Pakistan indicates that there are some three dozens non-State and non-DOD personnel in that country (DEA: 16, FBI: 7, DHS: 4, BBG:1, DOE: 1, NAS: 8, Treasury: 1).

On the U.S. Embassy Iraq staffing — well, trying to pin down the staffing number over there, is of course, rocket science and I simply do not have the brains for it. Also, with the military withdrawal and the embassy taking charge, a whole lot of big numbers are bring thrown around – 5,000 – 17,000.  Security people is a big component but not sure how many non-State/USAID and non-DOD personnel will continue to deploy in Iraq and our consulates there when all is said and done in 2011. 

Due to the recent “flavor of the month” in Afghanistan, the civilian uplift staffing picture there is a bit more clearer.  Seven civilian agencies (State/USAID excepted) account for about 26% of the total civilian uplift.  So all those folks, plus some three dozens in Pakistan and an undetermined number in Iraq will be affected by Congress’ non-renewal of warzone benefits.

In short, if they need mental health care after service in the warzones, they’re basically out of luck?

This will have an impact to the employees already deployed there, but may have a larger impact on recruitment of employees for the 2012 assignment and onward.

From SIGAR/State OIG

Below is an excerpt from the SIGAR/State OIG review of the civilian uplift in that country:

[...] State increased its civilian personnel deployed to Afghanistan from 192 in January 2009, to 501 in March 2011—an increase of 309 personnel.

State has an additional 81 authorized full-time equivalent positions for the civilian uplift as of May 31, 2011, but the positions are currently unfilled. According to State officials from the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA), they will continue to place additional civilian personnel in these positions through fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

USAID had the second largest presence of any agency prior to the start of the uplift. USAID personnel increased from 85 in January 2009 to 307 as of March 2011, an increase of 222 personnel. USAID has an additional 80 authorized positions for Afghanistan that are currently unfilled. According to USAID officials, they will continue to place additional U.S. civilians in these positions in fiscal years 2011 and 2012.

As of June 2011, the other seven civilian agencies with a presence in Afghanistan accounted for an increase of 189 personnel, or approximately 26 percent of the total civilian uplift. These agencies provide personnel at the request and direction of the Chief of Mission in Afghanistan and State officials in Washington in order to meet the mission’s strategic goals. The Chief of Mission determines the number of authorized civilian uplift positions in consultation with each department.

DOJ accounted for an increase of 78 personnel, or 11 percent, of the total civilian uplift. The majority of these uplift personnel are employees of the Drug Enforcement Administration who work on mentoring and training Afghan law enforcement entities in an effort to promote the rule of law. In addition, they provide leadership and guidance in the conduct of bilateral counternarcotics investigations and operations. USDA has deployed 59 civilian uplift personnel as of June 2011, representing eight percent of the total civilian uplift. These employees primarily mentor Afghan government officials at the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock.

The remaining five agencies account for approximately seven percent of the total civilian uplift. DHS personnel advise, mentor, and train Afghan border, customs, and related entities to enforce Afghan customs and immigration law. Treasury places technical experts at Afghan government ministries where they provide assistance in four areas: strengthening budget and financial accountability, combating economic crimes and corruption, building internal audit capacity and increasing non-tax revenues, and achieving debt relief and improving debt management. Transportation personnel advise officials at the Afghan Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation on issues such as civil aviation law and surface transportation planning. HHS personnel work on health programs, such as programs to strengthen maternal and child health services in Afghanistan. Finally, Commerce personnel assist with efforts to promote Afghanistan’s economic development and trade. 

Related item:       
SIGAR Audit-11-17 & State OIG AUD/SI-11-45 Civilian Uplift | September 8, 2011

Leave a comment

Filed under Af/Pak, Afghanistan, Career Employees, Civilian Surge, Congress, Federal Agencies, FS Benefits, Iraq, Pakistan, State Department, War

NOC! NOC! Who’s there? Ambassador Munter Stopped at Pakistani Airport Over NOC, What’s Next?

The US reportedly lodged a strong protest with Pakistani authorities after ambassador Cameron Munter was stopped at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport and asked about a “no-objection certificate” for travelling outside Islamabad.  He was travelling to Karachi, and the officials were supposedly enforcing a rule that requires “all” foreign diplomats to have a “no-objection certificate” or NOC for travelling outside the capital city.

Over the weekend, VOA also reported that diplomatic sources said that the U.S. embassy in Islamabad received a letter from the Pakistani Foreign Ministry last month setting new limitations on when and how diplomats can move outside the capital. The Associated Press, which obtained a copy of the letter, says the communique requires all U.S. diplomats to apply for special permission to leave the city five days in advance.

Oh dear! Something to remember about frienemies, the claws are never too far away. Makes one wonder what’s next?  Quarantine the embassy’s diplomatic mail and require a “no objection certificate” for every box from Amazon.com? 

Below Ambassador Munter enjoying a camel ride in Karachi’s Clifton Beach. I wonder if Pakistan will now post officials at the beaches to enforce this rule that requires all foreign US diplomats to have a “no-objection certificate.”

Ambassador Munter at Clifton Beach on the Arabian Sea
in Karachi, Pakistan

Don’t be surprise if things are not going to get better anytime soon. This rather expensive “ally” in South Central Asia is still sore for the Bin Laden kill. It will find a way to let our folks there know just how sore they are. Today it’s the NOC, tomorrow, it will be something else; like — permission to shake hands with a Pakistani national?

But there is a solution to this. It’s called “reciprocity” or if you want it straight, a tit for tat. If Pakistan requires a NOC for any travel by US diplomats outside of Islamabad, the US can require the equivalent of a NOC for any travel by Ambassador Husain Haqqani and other Pakistani diplomats outside of Washington, D.C. Yes, including travels to Maryland and Virginia, of course. 

But an even simpler solution? Wrap up Afghanistan 2.0 and bring the troops home. No more logistics/supply chain to worry about, period.  Hamid Karzai can go ahead and do his own nation-building without the “occupiers” that he loves one day and hates the next. Pakistan can continue worrying about India and its regional headaches; and China will be there to provide the aspirin. 

Of course, our hawks in Congress would have a fit.  They are still ever willing to burn a hole in the U.S. Treasury’s pocket. Hungry children in America, forgetaboutthem.  Talk your heads off about the debt ceiling; there is no such thing as a war ceiling if some of our folks in DC have their way. And just so you know, our job creators are hard at work in the war zones and in the wars of the future not yet drawn but already imagined.

 
 
 
 

Leave a comment

Filed under Af/Pak, Ambassadors, Diplomatic Life, Pakistan