Suspending Embassy Operations: Post and Bureau Not Told, and FOIA Redaction Fail

Posted: 1:12 am EDT
Updated: 5:28 pm EDT

 

On February 25, 2011, the State Department announced the suspension of U.S. Embassy operations in Libya (see State Dept Suspends US Embassy Operations in #Libya, Withdraws All Personnel).  What we didn’t know then but we know now, thanks to the Clinton email dump, is that just a few days before that, neither the embassy nor the bureau was aware that they were suspending operations.

February 22, 2011 09:50 PM – HRC aide Jake Sullivan sent an email (partially redacted with FOIA b(5) code) to Janet A. Sanderson, the Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of Near East Affairs, with subject line “Suspending embassy ops” and asking “Where do we stand?”

February 22, 2011 10:14 PM – Sanderson emailed Sullivan:

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Feb 22 22:18:23 2011 (10:18 PM) – Sanderson also sent an email to M/Patrick Kennedy and Kathleen T. Austin-Ferguson, M’s Executive Assistant:

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February 22, 2011 10:37 PM – Kennedy responded to Sanderson saying he “talked to cheryl and tom” and that “they are also unaware.”“Checking with Secretary. At this moment we are NOT suspending. Fully agree not possible to do tomorrow and also risks libyan blow back.”  Email must be referencing HRC Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills and Deputy Secretary Tom Nides.

Embassy Tripoli eventually suspended operations on February 25, three days after the start of this email chain.  These emails are part of the Clinton email dump and it shows just how messed up is the FOIA at the agency.

On Feb 22 22:40:17 2011 (10:40 PM) – Sanderson responded to the Kennedy email, adding Ronald Schlicher to the email chain. Ambassador Schlicher was previously assigned to Cyprus, and also served as a DAS at the Bureau of Near East Affairs. We are not sure what was his position in 2011, but he must have been attached to NEA to be looped in in this exchange. Ambassador Schlicher was Principal DAS at the NEA bureau, and he would have been Sanderson’s boss at the time.  Here’s a clip from that email:

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Now, take a look at the email below with the same time stamp and same addresses, released as a separate email by the FOIA office at State:

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Why, they’re the same email, except that they were released as separate documents, and in the second document, the email is redacted under the b(5) FOIA exemption, also known in the FOIA community as the “Withhold It Because You Want To” Exemption.  “Yael” must have been Yael Lempert who was assigned to Tripoli as consular section chief in 2009 and featured in the NYT here for the release of four New York Times journalists in 2011 in Libya.  She may have been the acting DCM at the time of the suspension of operations.  “Joan” is presumably Joan Polaschik who was DCM and then CDA of Embassy Tripoli. She is currently the U.S. Ambassador to Algeria.

Here is what DOJ says about the b(5) exemption:

Exemption 5 of the FOIA protects “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency.” (1) The courts have construed this somewhat opaque language, with its sometimes confusing threshold requirement, (2) to “exempt those documents, and only those documents that are normally privileged in the civil discovery context.” (3)

Here is what we are not supposed to read according to the FOIA ninjas, except that one of them forgot the Sharpie:

“I have just talked to post (Yael).She and Joan will work to reduce staff and send more out on ferry. Shd get down to 10- 12. She fully understands need for limited staff to stay to deal with community. Believes likely remainder will be position to leave in few days. Says situation is “worse than Baghdad in 2004-2005 “

No matter how you read the above passage, it is difficult to make the case that it fits the b(5) exemption unless you’re thinking of the “withhold it because you want to” exemption threshold.

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Emails in full released via FOIA below:

Suspending Ops Libya – February 22, 2011 11:05 PM: https://cloudup.com/cAlO_WHTfpc

Suspending Ops Libya February 23, 2011 7:59 AM: https://cloudup.com/cD33FlF7TCo

Suspending Ops Libya February 23, 2011 8:08 AM: https://cloudup.com/cjplOQtTEmw

 

Snapshot: State/OIG Reports Summarized in the Classified Annex to the Semiannual Report to the Congress, 4/1/2015–9/30/2015

Posted: 12:25 am EDT

 

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  • AUD-IT-15-42 |  Audit of the Information Security Program for Sensitive Compartmented Information Systems at the Department of State (9/2015) (PDF – 1 page)
  • AUD-SI-15-37 | Audit of the Department of State Implementation of the Vital Presence Validation Process (8/2015) (PDF– 1 page)
  • MA-15-02 | Management Alert: Evacuation of Embassy Tripoli (7/2015) (PDF – 1 page unclassified summary)
  • AUD-CGI-15-38 | Management Assistance Report: Residential Security Concerns at U.S. Embassy Ankara, Turkey  (7/2015) (PDF– 1 page)
  • AUD-CGI-15-31 | Audit of the Construction Contract Award and Security Evaluation of the New Embassy Compound London (7/2015) (PDF – 49 pages)
  • AUD-CGI-15-29 | Management Assistance Report: Residential Security Concerns at U.S. Embassy Manila, Philippines (5/2015) (PDF-1 page)
  • AUD-IT-15-27 | Management Assistance Report: Department of State Security Program for Wireless Networks (5/2015) (PDF-1 page)

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US Embassy Burundi Now on Ordered Departure Status (Second Evacuation in 2015)

Posted: 3:07 pm EDT

 

On May 15, 2015, the US Embassy in Bujumbura, Burundi went on Ordered Departure status (see New #Burundi Travel Warning, Non-Emergency US Embassy Staff & Family Members Now on Ordered Departure).

On November 3, 2015, the State Department updated its Travel Warning for Burundi, informing U.S. citizens that it has terminated the Ordered Departure status, allowing eligible family members and non-emergency personnel who departed Burundi to return.

On November 15, Belgium advised its citizens to leave Burundi, while the EU announced a cut in staff levels at its embassy in the country because of the “rising risk of violence” (see EU Evac From Burundi On, a Fresh Round of Ordered Departure For US Embassy Bujumbura?).

On December 13, the State Department issued a new Travel Warning for Burundi and announced the ordered departure of USG dependents and non-emergency personnel, the second evacuation from post this year alone:

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Burundi and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Burundi depart as soon as it is feasible to do so. As a result of continuing violence, the Department of State ordered the departure of dependents of U.S. government personnel and non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Burundi on December 13. The U.S. Embassy is able to offer only very limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in Burundi. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on November 3, 2015.

Political violence persists throughout Burundi in the aftermath of the country’s contested elections, an attempted coup d’etat and the debate over the President standing for a third term. Armed groups operate in Burundi and gunfire and grenade attacks occur with frequency, but are usually not directed at foreigners. If you encounter such a situation, stay indoors in a ground floor interior room away from doors and windows. Government command and control of the armed forces and security services is not complete. Police and military checkpoints throughout the country have the potential to seriously restrict freedom of movement. Police have also searched the homes of private U.S. citizens as a part of larger weapons searches.

U.S. citizens interested in departing Burundi should note that departure plans can be subject to change because of safety and security factors as well as varying availability of commercial transport. U.S. citizens interested in departing should therefore monitor the media, check with airlines to verify flight schedules, and also check U.S. Embassy Bujumbura’s website for the latest consular information, including security messages. The U.S. Embassy continues to monitor potential airport and land border closures.

Demonstrations, gatherings, and even sporting events that are intended to be peaceful can turn violent without advance warning. For this reason, U.S. citizens should routinely monitor local media sources and the Internet for reports of demonstrations and unrest, and avoid political rallies, demonstrations, and crowds of any kind.

Travel outside of Bujumbura presents significant risks, especially after nightfall. The U.S. embassy limits and monitors the travel of its personnel in Burundi. All movement by embassy employees outside the city from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. is prohibited. Likewise, U.S. citizens should not travel on national highways from dusk to dawn. Armed criminals ambush vehicles, particularly on the roads leading out of Bujumbura. Keep vehicle doors locked and windows up when stopped in heavy traffic.

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Related posts:

US Embassy Burundi: Students Broke Into Embassy Grounds Seeking Refuge (Updated)

US Embassy #Burundi Announces Evacuation Flights From Bujumbura to Kigali For May 17

New #Burundi Travel Warning, Non-Emergency US Embassy Staff & Family Members Now on Ordered Departure

US Embassy Burundi: Amidst Coup Attempt, No Movement of Personnel Until Further Notice

U.S. Embassy Burundi — Sacrificing Free Time Is Worthwhile, Rinse, Repeat

New Danger Pay Differential Posts: See Gainers, Plus Losers Include One Post on Evacuation Status

 

US Embassy Mali Now on Authorized Departure For Non-Emergency Staff and Family Members

Posted: 6:48 pm EDT
Updated: 12:32 pm EDT

 

The December 1, 2015 Travel Warning for Mali is out. It says it part:

The State Department continues to warn U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Mali.  This Travel Warning also informs U.S. citizens that on December 1 the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure of eligible family members and non-emergency personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Bamako. U.S. citizens already in Mali are encouraged toreview their personal safety and security plans to determine whether they should depart. U.S. citizens are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. The U.S. Embassy in Mali will provide only emergency consular services to U.S. citizens for the foreseeable future.

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We’ve recently posted about the terrorist attacks in Bamako (see US Embassy Bamako Lifts Shelter in Place Advisory After Radisson Blu Hotel Attack in Mali). On December 1, the State Department has reportedly ordered the authorized departure of personnel and family members from Mali. We are presuming that the authorized voluntary departure affects non-emergency personnel and not all personnel at this time.  The Travel Warning for Mali was last updated on May 7, 2015.  We expect that it will be updated with this new development. We will update this post when the new warning is issued.

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Related posts:

State Dept Terminates “Authorized Departure” Status of Embassy Ouagadougou

Posted: 2:40 am EDT

 

On September 21, the U.S. Embassy in Burkina Faso went on “authorized departure” status for eligible family members and non-emergency personnel (see U.S. Embassy Ouagadougou Now on Authorized Departure).  On October 9, the State Department announced the termination of the “authorized departure” evac status of U.S. Embassy Ouagadougou. Below is an excerpt from the updated Travel Warning:

This Travel Warning is being issued to inform U.S. citizens that the Department of State on October 9 terminated the “Authorized Departure” status which allowed eligible family members and non-emergency personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou to voluntarily depart the country on September 21. As a result of the termination of “Authorized Departure,” eligible family members and non-emergency personnel who departed Burkina Faso may now return. The decision to allow the return of eligible family members and non-emergency personnel has been made because of improved civil conditions which include the reopening of the airport and the resumption of commercial flights to and from the country. The transnational military and police forces also appear to be, again, firmly in control; and the transitional Government President, Michel Kafando, has been reinstated. This Travel Warning replaces the Travel Warning issued on September 21, 2015.

U.S. citizens should still carefully consider the risks of travel to the countryand, if already in Burkina Faso, review their and their families’ personal safety and security plans to determine whether they and their family members should remain. There is still the potential for sporadic civil disruptions throughout the presidential and legislative elections period, including demonstrations, which can be spontaneous and occur with little-to-no advance warning throughout Burkina Faso. U.S. citizens who choose to remain in Burkina Faso should remain vigilant and utilize appropriate personal security practices. Try to avoid political rallies, campaign events, polling stations, demonstrations, protests, and other large gatherings in the weeks before and after elections; maintain situational awareness and exercise good judgment; stay alert and aware of your surroundings at all times; and stay abreast of the situation through media outlets. U.S. citizens should maintain adequate supplies of food, water, essential medicines, and other supplies to shelter in place for at least 72 hours should this become necessary.

Read more here.

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U.S. Embassy Ouagadougou Now on Authorized Departure

Posted: 11:51 pm EDT

 

On September 16, the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou issued a “shelter in place” order for its staff during a military coup that occurred less than a year after the former president, Blaise Compaoré was driven out of power (see US Embassy Burkina Faso Orders Staff to Shelter in Place Amidst Coup Attempt).

On September 21, the State Department issued a Travel Warning for Burkina Faso recommending that U.S. citizens in the country depart “as soon as it is feasible to do so.” It also notified the public that the State Department has authorized the voluntary departure of eligible family members and non-emergency personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou.

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Burkina Faso and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Burkina Faso depart as soon as it is feasible to do so.

This Travel Warning is being issued to notify U.S. citizens that on September 21, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure of eligible family members and non-emergency personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou.  U.S. citizens are urged to carefully consider the risks of travel to Burkina Faso and, if already in Burkina Faso, encouraged to review their and their families’ personal safety and security plans to determine whether they and their family members, should depart.  U.S. citizens are responsible for making their own travel arrangements.  Citizens who decide to remain in Burkina Faso despite this travel warning should maintain situational awareness at all times and register their presence within Burkina Faso with the Embassy by enrolling in STEP.  This Travel Warning supersedes and replaces the Travel Alert issued on September 4, 2015.

Embassy staff remaining in Burkina Faso continues to shelter in place.  The U.S. Embassy in Ouagadougou will operate at reduced staffing levels and will continue to provide emergency consular services to U.S. citizens.

Elements of the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP) took control of the presidential palace during the weekly council of ministers meeting the afternoon of September 16, detaining President Kafando, Prime Minister Zida, and two additional members of the cabinet of ministers.  President Kafando and others have since been released, but Kafando remains under house arrest.  Prime Minister Zida remains in detention.  Former special chief of staff responsible for the RSP General Gilbert Diendere was declared to be in charge of Burkina Faso following the establishment of a “Conseil national pour la democratie” (CND, the National Council for Democracy).

The security environment in Ouagadougou remains fluid.  Gunfire continues to be reported in locations throughout Ouagadougou.  Elements of the RSP have set road blocks and have engaged in crowd control measures. Civilians have also established roadblocks around the city.  The level of activity on the street has diminished, and many businesses providing essential services—including food, gasoline and cooking fuel—remain closed.  Local electricity and water utility providers have declared a strike, which could further decrease the level of services provided to residents.  A nationwide curfew remains in place from 7:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

Outside of Ouagadougou, the security situation varies, but remains dynamic and susceptible to change at any moment.  There have been reports of demonstrations in Bobo-Dioulasso, Gaoua, Fada N’Gourma, and Ouahigouya.  Due to reports that roadways between major cities may be impassable, U.S. citizens in Burkina Faso may find that at times sheltering in place may be the only and best security option.

Read in full here.

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US Consulate Adana Now on Authorized Departure, Plus New Turkey Travel Warning

Posted: 11:45 am PDT

 

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On September 2, the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey John Bass was on CNN Turk TV talking about the coalition effort against ISIL:

“We have seen in the last week, Turkey start to fly combat missions against DAESH in Syria as part of the coalition effort; that’s a really important step forward.  And we are already benefiting not only from Turkey’s active participation, but also from the ability to base U.S. and potentially other coalition aircraft and assets in Turkey which greatly reduces the time for those assets to reach targets in Syria, and therefore increases the capability of the coalition to pursue this military campaign.”

Map from travel.state.gov

Map from travel.state.gov

The American Consulate Adana is a very small post located less than 5 kilometers from Incirlik Air Force Base, a Turkish air base and hosts of the US 39th Air Base Wing.  The previous time Adana was placed on “authorized departure” order was in September 2013 (see US Embassy Beirut and US Consulate Adana (Turkey) Now on Departure Orders for Non-Emergency Staff and Family Members). That, too, was done “out of an abundance of caution.”

The State Department has now released its Travel Warning on Turkey dated September 3:

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens traveling to or living in Turkey that the U.S. Consulate in Adana has authorized the voluntary departure of family members out of an abundance of caution following the commencement of military operations out of Incirlik Air Base in southern Turkey.  

On September 2, the Department of State permitted the departure of U.S. government family members from the U.S. Consulate in Adana, Turkey. U.S. citizens seeking to depart southern Turkey are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. There are no plans for charter flights or other U.S. government-sponsored evacuations; however, commercial flights are readily available and airports are functioning normally. The U.S. Consulate in Adana will continue to operate normally and provide consular services to U.S. citizens.

U.S. government employees continue to be subject to travel restrictions in southeastern Turkey. They must obtain advance approval prior to official or unofficial travel to the provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Sirnak, Diyarbakir, Van, Siirt, Mus, Mardin, Batman, Bingol, Tunceli, Hakkari, Bitlis, and Elazig. The Embassy strongly recommends that U.S. citizens avoid areas in close proximity to the Syrian border.

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USAID’s Arab Spring Challenges in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen: The State Department, It’s No.2 Challenge

Posted: 12:10 am EDT

 

USAID’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted a survey (pdf) to identify the challenges USAID faced during the early transition period (December 2010-June 2014) in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen. USAID/OIG identified and interviewed 31 key USAID officials from various parts of the organization who have worked on activities in these countries.It also administered a questionnaire to supplement the information gathered from the interviews. Together, 70 employees from USAID were either interviewed or responded to the questionnaire. It notes that the while the survey collected the perspectives of a number of USAID employees, it is not statistically representative of each office or USAID as a whole.

The highest addressee on this report is USAID/Middle East Bureau Assistant Administrator, Paige Alexander. It includes no State Department official nor congressional entities.

Below is an excerpt:

In 2013 OIG conducted a performance audit of USAID/Egypt’s economic growth project1 and found that the changes of the Arab Spring severely affected the project’s progress. Approximately midway through implementation, the project had not made significant progress in seven of the ten tasks in the original plan mainly because of changes in the Egyptian Government’s counterparts and priorities. To adapt to the environment, the project adjusted its plan and identified three new areas of work to focus on. In another audit that year,2 OIG found similar challenges at USAID/Yemen when one of that mission’s main projects had to adjust its approach after the Arab Spring started (page 16).

Beyond project delays, we found a host of other challenges common to all four countries that revolve around three broad categories:

  1. Security
  2. Increased influence from the State Department
  3. Host-countryreadiness

1. Security.

One of the most commonly cited challenges was the difficulty of operating in a volatile environment. Security dictated many aspects of USAID’s operations after the Arab Spring started, and it was not uncommon for activities to be delayed or cancelled because of security issues.
[…]
In addition to access, security also disrupted operations because employees were evacuated from the different countries. U.S. direct-hire employees at USAID/Egypt were evacuated twice in 3 years. In USAID/Yemen, employees were evacuated twice in 3 years for periods of up to 6 months.3 In our survey, 76 percent of the respondents agreed that evacuations made managing projects more difficult.
[…]
Because of the precarious security situations, strict limits were placed on the number of U.S. direct hires who were allowed to be in each country. Employees said the Agency did not have enough staff to support the number of activities. This problem was particularly pronounced in Tunisia and Libya, where for extended periods, USAID had only one permanent employee in each country

2. Increased Influence From State Department.

According to our survey results, the majority of respondents (87 percent) believed that since the Arab Spring the State Department has increased its influence over USAID programs (Figure 3). While USAID did not have activities in Libya and Tunisia before the Arab Spring, staff working in these countries afterward discussed situations in which the State Department had significant influence over USAID’s work. A respondent from Tunisia wrote, “Everything has been driven by an embassy that does not seem to feel USAID is anything other than an implementer of whatever they want to do.”

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While there is broad interagency guidance on State’s role in politically sensitive environments, the specifics of how USAID should adapt its operations were not entirely clear to Agency employees and presented a number of challenges to USAID’s operations. In Yemen, the department’s influence seemed to be less of an issue (page 17), but for the remaining countries, it was a major concern. As one survey respondent from Egypt wrote:

[State’s control] makes long-term planning incredibly difficult and severely constrains USAID’s ability to design and execute technically sound development projects. A path forward is agreed, steps taken to design activities and select implementation mechanisms, and then we are abruptly asked to change the approach.

State’s involvement introduced a new layer of review and slowed down operations. USAID employees needed to dedicate additional time to build consensus and gain approval from people outside the Agency.

USAID employees also described challenges occurring when State employees, unfamiliar with the Agency and its different types of procurement, made requests that were difficult to accommodate under USAID procedures. One respondent wrote that State “think[s] programs can be stopped and started at will and that we can intervene and direct partners in a manner that goes far beyond the substantial involvement we are allowed as project managers.”

Beyond operational challenges, many people we interviewed expressed frustration over the State Department’s increased role, particularly when State’s direction diverted USAID programming from planned development priorities and goals. This was an especially contentious issue at USAID/Egypt (page 7).

This difference in perspectives caused some to question State’s expertise in development assistance, particularly in transitional situations. A USAID official explained that countries in turmoil presented unique challenges and dynamics, and embassies may not have experts in this area. Others said USAID was taking direction from State advisers who were often political appointees without backgrounds in development.
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State was not the sole source of pressure; employees said other federal entities such as the National Security Council and even the White House had increased their scrutiny of USAID since the start of the Arab Spring. As a result, mission officials had to deal with new levels of bureaucracy and were responding constantly to different requests and demands from outside the Agency.

3. Host-Country Readiness.

In each of the four countries, employees reported problems stemming from award recipients’ ability to implement assistance programs. According to one employee, local capacity in Libya was a major problem because the country did not have a strong workforce. Moreover, local implementers had not developed the necessary technical capacity because development assistance was not a priority in Libya under Muammar Qadhafi’s closed, oil-rich regime. Activities in Tunisia and Yemen encountered similar issues because neither have had long histories of receiving foreign development assistance. In Egypt, employees reported that some of the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) working on the mission’s democracy and governance program also lacked sufficient capacity.

On Egypt:  More than 85 percent of the employees surveyed who worked on activities related to USAID/Egypt agreed that the State Department had increased its influence over USAID programs since the start of the Arab Spring (Figure 5). A number of respondents said State steered Agency programs to address political rather than development needs. This dynamic had a profound effect on the mission’s ability to follow USAID’s guidance on designing and implementing developmentally sound projects. […] Some mission officials questioned the value of adhering to USAID’s project design procedures when the State Department had already decided a project’s fate. […] In this example, State’s desire to award education scholarships to women in Egypt was difficult to justify because university enrollment data showed that higher education enrollment and graduation rates for women are slightly higher than for men.  […] With so many differing voices and perspectives, USAID employees said they were not getting clear, consistent guidance. They described the situation as having “too many cooks in the kitchen.” One survey respondent wrote:

State (or White House) has had a very difficult time making decisions on USAID programming for Egypt . . . so USAID has been paralyzed and sent through twists and turns. State/White House difficulties in decisions may be expected given the fluid situation, but there has been excessive indecision, and mixed signals to USAID.

On Tunisia: The State Department placed strict restrictions on the number of USAID employees allowed to be in-country. As a result, most Agency activities were managed from Washington, D.C. … [O]ne survey respondent wrote, “I have been working on Tunisia for nearly 3 years now, and have designed programs to be carried out there, but I’ve never been. I don’t feel like I have been able to do my job to the best of my ability without that understanding of the situation on the ground.”

On Libya: The attacks in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, had a profound impact on USAID operations in Libya. According to one interviewee, after the attacks USAID did not want to attract too much political attention and put a number of Agency activities in Libya on hold. The period of inactivity lasted from September 2012 to September 2013. It was not until October 2013, after Prime Minister Ali Zeidan was abducted, that the U.S. Government refocused attention on Libya and funding for activities picked up again.

Before the attacks, USAID had five employees in the country; afterward, only one was allowed to remain. Although his main priority then was to manage USAID/OTI projects in Libya, he also was asked to oversee four to five additional activities managed out of Washington—a stretch for any employee. As one survey respondent wrote, “The lack of people in the field in Libya (small footprint) means that DC overwhelms the field. People in the field are worked ragged.”

On Yemen: USAID/Yemen did not suffer from the challenges of unclear strategy that other USAID missions did in the region; 70 percent of respondents who worked on activities in Yemen believed that the Agency had a clear strategy for its post-Arab Spring activities (Figure 12). This is a stark contrast to responses related to USAID/Egypt, where only 22 percent believed that USAID had a clear strategy. …[O]ur survey also found a strong working relationship between USAID/Yemen and the State Department; the two often agreed on what needed to be done. […] Some respondents said the collaborative atmosphere was due to individual personalities and strong working relationships between USAID and State officials. One employee said because employees of both organizations lived and worked together in the close quarters, communication flowed freely as perspectives could be exchanged easily. …[O]ne senior USAID/Yemen official said, some of what needed to be done was so obvious that it was difficult for the two agencies not to agree.

Lessons Learned

The report offers 15 lessons learned including the development of a USAID transition plan at the country level, even if it may change. USAID/OIG says that by having a short-term transition plan, the Agency “would have a better platform to articulate its strategy, particularly when it disagrees with the decisions of other federal entities.”It also lists the following:

  • Resist the urge to implement large development projects that require the support of host governments immediately after a transition.
  • Prepare mission-level plans with Foreign Service Nationals (FSNs)—locally hired USAID employees who are not U.S. citizens—in case U.S. direct hires are evacuated. Evacuation of U.S. staff can be abrupt with only a few hours’ notice. People we interviewed recommended that U.S. staff develop plans with the mission’s FSN staff ahead of time, outlining roles, responsibilities, and modes of operation to prevent a standstill in operations in the event of an evacuation.
  • Get things in writing. When working in environments where USAID is getting input and instructions from organizations that are not familiar with Agency procedures, decisions made outside of USAID may be documented poorly. In such circumstances, it is important to remember to get things in writing.
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US Embassy #Burundi Announces Evacuation Flights From Bujumbura to Kigali For May 17

Posted: 8:06 pm PDT

 

The State Department announced today the availability of evacuation flights for U.S. citizens in Burundi departing on Sunday, May 17, from Bujumbura to Kigali, Rwanda. Like all evacuation flights, American citizen passengers are expected to sign a promissory note promising to later reimburse the U.S. government for the cost of the evacuation.

22 U.S.C. 2671(b)(2)(A) provides that “Private United States citizens or third-country nationals, on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable, with such reimbursements to be credited to the applicable Department of State appropriation and to remain available until expended, except that no reimbursement under this clause shall be paid that is greater than the amount the person evacuated would have been charged for a reasonable commercial air fare immediately prior to the events giving rise to the evacuation.” (via FAM – pdf)

Below is an excerpt from the US Embassy Bujumbura announcement:

The U.S. Department of State wishes to inform U.S. citizens interested in departing Burundi that we are planning charter evacuation flights for Sunday, May 17, from Bujumbura, Burundi, to Kigali, Rwanda. Those wanting to travel should plan to arrive at Bujumbura International Airport no later than 10:00 a.m. Sunday morning. After that time we cannot guarantee you a flight.

The cost will be approximately $620.00 per passenger. Please note that you will be asked to sign a form agreeing to reimburse the U.S. government for your evacuation costs. As indicated in the May 15 Emergency Message, this option is open only to U.S. citizens and their immediate family members. There is a luggage allowance of 20 kilograms per traveler. Pets may be allowed on a case by case basis, provided they have a veterinary certificate, kennel (cage), and will be carried in the cargo hold of the aircraft. The weight of the pet in the kennel will count against the 20 kilograms per traveler. In addition, travelers should be prepared to pay $30 in cash for a Rwandan visa upon arrival in Kigali.

U.S. Embassy Bujumbura requests U.S. citizens who plan to use this option to depart Burundi to contact us at BurundiEmergencyUSC@state.gov to confirm your plans and obtain additional flight information, even if you already contacted us to express your interest.

The Embassy also asks U.S. citizens who are not in possession of a valid U.S. passport and who may need emergency passport services in order to leave the country to please contact the Consular Section at BujumburaC@state.gov or 22-20-7066 or 79-95-1666 with their contact information. Emergency consular services will be available at the Embassy between 7 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.

You can alert us to U.S. citizens affected by the situation in Burundi, including yourself, by visiting https://tfa.state.gov/ccd, selecting “2015 Burundi Unrest” and providing as much information as possible. You can also contact us at 1-888-407-4747 (From the United States and Canada), +1-202-501-4444 (From all other countries), and email BurundiEmergencyUSC@state.gov if you have additional questions or concerns.If you are currently in Burundi and do not have the ability to access the internet or send email,you may contact the Embassy’s consular section at +257-22-20-7000.

Read more here: http://burundi.usembassy.gov/em51615.html

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Related items:

New #Burundi Travel Warning, Non-Emergency US Embassy Staff & Family Members Now on Ordered Departure

Posted: 9:46 pm  PDT

 

We posted this earlier today: US Embassy Burundi: Amidst Coup Attempt, No Movement of Personnel Until Further Notice. Sometime in the last 24 hours, the State Department must have decided to place the US Embassy in Bujumbura on “ordered departure.” A new Travel Warning was released today. Non-emegency personnel and family members are also ordered to depart the country.   Ordered Departure is initiated in extraordinary circumstances when the embassy is no longer confident of the security of its personnel and families. Once the Under Secretary of State for Management (“M”) approves the evacuation status for post—either authorized or ordered—the 180-day clock “begins ticking” (by law, an evacuation cannot last longer than 180 days).

The State Department also recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Burundi depart “as soon as it is feasible to do so.”   Meanwhile, the game of continues, and there are still conflicting reports on social media regarding the operating status of the Bujumbura airport.

by-map bujumbura

Below is an excerpt from the new Travel Warning dated May 14:

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all travel to Burundi and recommends that U.S. citizens currently in Burundi depart as soon as it is feasible to do so.  As a result of the deteriorating security situation, the Department of State ordered the departure of dependents of U.S. government personnel and non-emergency U.S. government personnel from Burundi on May 14.  The U.S. Embassy is able to offer only very limited emergency services to U.S. citizens in Burundi.  This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on May 11, 2015.

The security situation remains fluid and volatile because of military and security forces activity in Bujumbura.  There have been increased political tensions and civil disturbances related to these actions.  Airport and land borders are reportedly closed.  U.S. citizens should shelter in place until it is safe to move about, ensure that your travel documents are up-to-date, and confirm that air and land borders are open before attempting to depart the country.

The terrorist organization al-Shabaab, based in Somalia, has threatened to conduct terror attacks in Burundi.  It may also target U.S. interests in Burundi.  Political violence persists throughout Burundi, a carryover of the Burundian civil war. Armed groups operate in Burundi.  Weapons are easy to obtain and some ex-combatants have turned to crime or political violence.  Crime, often committed by groups of armed bandits or street children, poses the highest risk for foreign visitors.  Exchanges of gunfire and grenade attacks have increased but are usually not directed at foreigners.  If you encounter such a situation, stay indoors in a ground floor interior room away from doors and windows.  Common crimes include muggings, burglaries, and robberies.  U.S. government personnel are prohibited from walking on the streets after dark and from using local public transportation at any time.  Local authorities in any part of Burundi are often unable to provide timely assistance during an emergency.

Demonstrations, gatherings, and even sporting events that are intended to be peaceful can turn violent without advance warning.  For this reason, U.S. citizens should routinely monitor local media sources and the Internet for reports of demonstrations and unrest, and avoid political rallies, demonstrations, and crowds of any kind.

Travel outside the capital, Bujumbura, presents significant risks, especially after nightfall.  Note the U.S. embassy limits and monitors the travel of its personnel in Burundi.  All movement by embassy employees outside the city from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. is prohibited.  Likewise, U.S. citizens should not travel on national highways from dusk to dawn.  Armed criminals ambush vehicles, particularly on the roads leading out of Bujumbura.  Keep vehicle doors locked and windows up when stopped in heavy traffic.

Corruption is endemic in Burundi and contributes to an environment where the rule of law is not respected.  Government officials may ask for bribes for providing routine services.  Travelers are frequently stopped, questioned, and asked for bribes by security forces at numerous official and unofficial roadblocks throughout the country.  Likewise, criminals who have paid off local officials may operate with impunity.

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