Category Archives: Special Envoys and Reps

Arctic Ambassador Position Announced, Move-In Ready Office Available – Hurry Before It Melts!

– Domani Spero

On Friday, Secretary Kerry announced the creation of a Special Representative for the Arctic Region to help advance American interests in the Arctic:

The Arctic region is the last global frontier and a region with enormous and growing geostrategic, economic, climate, environment, and national security implications for the United States and the world.

Today I informed my two former Senate colleagues that here at the State Department we will soon have a Special Representative for the Arctic Region, a high-level official of stature who will play a critical role in advancing American interests in the Arctic Region, particularly as we prepare efforts for the United States to Chair the Arctic Council in 2015. President Obama and I are committed to elevating our attention and effort to keep up with the opportunities and consequences presented by the Arctic’s rapid transformation—a very rare convergence of almost every national priority in the most rapidly-changing region on the face of the earth.

The great challenges of the Arctic matter enormously to the United States, and they hit especially close to home for Alaska, which is why it is no wonder that Senator Begich’s very first piece of legislation aimed to create an Arctic Ambassador, or why as Foreign Relations Committee Chairman I enjoyed a close partnership with Senator Murkowski on a treaty vital to energy and maritime interests important to Alaska. Going forward, I look forward to continuing to work closely with Alaska’s Congressional delegation to strengthen America’s engagement in Arctic issues.

Apparently, Alaska’s senators — Begich, and Murkowski — have been pressing for an ambassador  to the Arctic.

“The bottom line is that the changes we see in the Arctic warrant a higher level of involvement from the U.S. and this position will allow us to better exercise leadership and vision in Arctic policy moving forward,” Senator Begich said in a statement.

The title is ready, just need to know the name of the appointee. Oh, and see the move-in ready office below. Best hurry before it melts.

Igloo in Alert, Nunavut Photo via US Embassy Canada

Igloo in Alert, Nunavut
Alert is the northernmost permanently inhabited place in the world.
Photo via US Embassy Canada

Arctic Council Member States are Canada, Denmark (including Greenland and the Faroe Islands), Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States of America. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council rotates every two years between the eight member states.  Indigenous peoples also have permanent representation on the Council.  In May 2013, Canada assumed assumed the two-year chairmanship. The US last held the chairmanship in 1998-2000 and is scheduled to lead the council again in 2015-2017.

The State Department has yet to announce who will be appointed to this new post. The Special Representative position does not require Senate confirmation, so he/she will not be waiting for confirmation for a year.  There is also no danger of Senators asking questions like, “Have you been to the Arctic?”  or “Do you speak any of the Arctic region’s 40 indigenous languages?”

So hurry, apply now.

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Filed under Congress, Foreign Affairs, John F. Kerry, Secretary of State, Special Envoys and Reps, Staffing the FS, State Department

U.S. Embassy Juba: 4 US Troops Wounded in South Sudan Evacuation

– Domani Spero

Following an outbreak of violence in South Sudan, the U.S. Embassy in Juba closed on December 16 and temporarily suspended routine American Citizen Services.  Within 24 hours, the State Department suspended normal operations at Embassy Juba and authorized the ordered departure of non-emergency staff. On December 18, the U.S. Embassy in Juba facilitated the evacuation of U.S. citizens from the world’s newest country.

On December 18,  DOD announced that at the request of the State Department, the Defense Department directed two U.S. C-130 aircraft to evacuate 120 personnel from Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to Nairobi, Kenya. According to the DOD spokesman, the department also augmented physical security at American diplomatic facilities in Juba with members of the East Africa Response Force, a Djibouti-based joint quick-response team formed after the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

U.S. Soldiers support South Sudan evacuation Soldiers of the East Africa Response Force, a Djibouti-based joint team, prepare to support evacuation operations in Juba, South Sudan. At the request of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Defense Department directed two U.S. C-130 aircraft to evacuate personnel from Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to Nairobi, Kenya. DoD also augmented physical security at American diplomatic facilities in Juba with members of the EARF. (U.S. Army Africa photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. . Micah Theurich, Released by U.S. Africa Command)

U.S. Soldiers support South Sudan evacuation
Soldiers of the East Africa Response Force, a Djibouti-based joint team, prepare to support evacuation operations in Juba, South Sudan. At the request of the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Defense Department directed two U.S. C-130 aircraft to evacuate personnel from Juba, the capital of South Sudan, to Nairobi, Kenya. DoD also augmented physical security at American diplomatic facilities in Juba with members of the EARF. (U.S. Army Africa photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. . Micah Theurich, Released by U.S. Africa Command)

Later that day, the State Department confirmed the successful evacuation of three groups of U.S. citizens from South Sudan. “Two Department of Defense C-130 aircraft and a private charter flight departed Juba at 0530, 0535, and 0940 EST, respectively, carrying non-emergency Chief of Mission personnel, private U.S. citizens, and third country nationals.”

Ambassador Susan D. Page said that “On the ground the violence appears to be taking on a very clear ethnic dimension.” On December 20, Secretary Kerry called for the violence to stop and sent U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, Ambassador Donald Booth to travel to the region and “support regional efforts already underway.”

The US Embassy in Juba subsequently organized the evacuation flights of U.S. citizens from Juba in the last several days. As of today, the embassy has evacuated  at least 450 American citizens and other foreign nationals from the capital city.  It said that it had hoped to start evacuation from Bor, a town located some 200km north of the capital.  However, the evac flight came under fire, preventing the evacuation attempt. Four U.S. Service members were injured during the attack.

CIA Map

CIA Map
For an alternative map of Jonglei state in the Greater Upper Nile region of northeastern South Sudan, click here.

 

AFRICOM released the following statement:

Dec 21, 2013 — At the request of the Department of State, the United States Africa Command, utilizing forces from Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), attempted to evacuate U.S. citizens from the town of Bor, South Sudan, today.  As the aircraft, three CV-22 Ospreys, were approaching the town they were fired on by small arms fire by unknown forces.  All three aircraft sustained damage during the engagement.  Four service members onboard the aircraft were wounded during the engagement.

The damaged aircraft diverted to Entebbe, Uganda, where the wounded were transferred onboard a U.S. Air Force C-17 and flown to Nairobi, Kenya for medical treatment.

All four service members were treated and are in stable condition.

The Sudan Tribune reported that Army defectors had taken control of Bor earlier this week but that the spokesperson for the South Sudanese army (SPLA) reportedly said today that they had regained control of the town.

Evacuation on Social Media

This is the first embassy evacuation of Amcits that has fully utilized Facebook and Twitter, both in reaching out to Americans at post, and in providing as timely an information as possible.  When @modernemeid20 Dec  complained that “The U.S. embassy has been incredibly unhelpful. My cousin’s passport expired, they’re just leaving her hanging” @USMissionJuba was quick to respond. “@modernemeid please call us at 0912157323 for assistance.” When somebody tweeted “all evacuation planes diverted” following a plane crash on the Juba airport runway, @USMissionJuba responded swiftly, “not quite true. At least two evac flights departed after the runway cleared.”  We later asked for the number of evacuees, and the number shortly became available; tweeted, of course.  In addition to answering questions about evac flights procedures, @USMissionJuba also organize a texting campaign to alert American citizen friends and family about the emergency evac flights.

Here’s a shoutout to @USMissionJuba’s Twitter and evac ninjas for being timely and responsive and for their tireless work under very difficult circumstances.  Don’t ignore the fatigue factor and stay safe, folks!

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Filed under Africa, Ambassadors, Americans Abroad, Consular Work, Digital Diplomacy, Diplomatic Security, Facebook, Foreign Service, FSOs, Realities of the FS, Security, Social Media, Special Envoys and Reps, State Department, Technology and Work, U.S. Missions, Uncategorized

Senate Confirms Victoria Nuland for State/EUR

– By Domani Spero

On September 12, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Ambassador Victoria Nuland to be the Assistant Secretary for the State Department’s Bureau of European Affairs (State/EUR). The EUR Bureau develops and implements our. foreign policy in Europe and Eurasia covering over fifty countries, the Holy See and the European Union.

Screen Shot 2013-09-15

Confirmed Executive Calendar #219, the nomination of Victoria Nuland, of VA, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be an Assistant Secretary of State (European and Eurasian Affairs).

The confirmation completes the line-up of senior officials for the EUR bureau.  The regional bureau’s top officials include Ambassador Paul Jones, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (most recently Ambassador to Malaysia), four DASes including Ambassador Philip T. Reeker, former deputy spokesman and former ambassador to Macedonia, Douglas Davidson Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues and Daniel Rosenblum Coordinator of U.S. Assistance to Europe and Eurasia.

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Filed under Ambassadors, Assistant Secretary, Confirmed, Congress, FSOs, Regional Bureaus, Special Envoys and Reps, State Department

State Dept Wants To Protect Labor Rights in the Global Market Place – Smart Power in Action, Really …

– By Domani Spero

 

To mark Labor Day, Barbara Shailor, the State Department’s Special Representative for International Labor Affairs blogged on September 2 over at DipNote about “Protecting Labor Rights in the Global Market Place.”  We also marked labor day with a blog post on the State Department’s refusal to talk about granting labor rights to its local embassy employees worldwide (see State Dept on Embassy Workers Unionization: Yo! Could Put U.S. National Security at Risk).

We should admit upfront that Ms. Sailor’s blog post is definitely the most worthwhile read of the two.  After all, who can argue against “protecting the dignity of workers everywhere” as “the right investment?” Or fault the “history of the labor movement in the United States — and of workers everywhere — [... ] the story of courageous men and women who persevered and risked their lives to bring dignity to their work?”  This American value is a laudable export to the  global market place. Last year, Ms. Shailor also had a labor day message for everyone.

This year, we again applaud the State Department’s commitment  “to doing everything we can to advance labor rights in the global economy.” We are republishing Ms. Shailor’s blog post in full in appreciation of smart-power pretense affectation.

For over a century, we’ve set aside a day to honor the contributions of workers. The cookouts, shopping sales, and parades are end of summer American rituals.  But the significance of Labor Day – advocating for the dignity of work — is, and always will be an American value.

Promoting labor rights and improving working conditions is a smart economic investment — essential to driving growth, ensuring its benefits are broadly shared, and delivering decent jobs for the American people.

Protecting the dignity of workers everywhere is also the right investment.  The goal is to create not just more growth, but better growth.  That means ensuring all workers enjoy certain universal labor rights, including the freedom to associate and effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, and prohibitions against the worst forms of child labor and forced labor, and employment discrimination.

Much of the world is still experiencing high unemployment, a lack of opportunities for youths, discrimination towards women, disabled persons, and LGBT individuals, and the growth of disenfranchised migrant workers and refugees.  This exacerbates already volatile situations in many countries.

By combating the root causes of poverty and helping countries provide a prospect for decent work we can better hope to achieve our foreign policy goals: stability, security, democracy, and prosperity for all.  We cannot build a stable, global economy when hundreds of millions of workers and families find themselves on the wrong side of globalization.

Secretary Kerry captured the importance of protecting rights in the global market place in his address at the University of Virginia, where he said:

“I’m here because our lives as Americans are more intertwined than ever before with the lives of people in parts of the world that we may have never visited. In the global challenges of diplomacy, development, economic security, environmental security, you will feel our success or failure just as strongly as those people in those other countries that you’ll never meet…it also gives us many more rivals determined to create jobs and opportunities for their own people, a voracious marketplace that sometimes forgets morality and values.”

The history of the labor movement in the United States — and of workers everywhere — is the story of courageous men and women who persevered and risked their lives to bring dignity to their work.

Today, we celebrate the sacrifices and successes of workers everywhere, and commit to doing everything we can to advance labor rights in the global economy.

 

Excellent example of talking the walk but not walking the talk.  Brava! Can we have more, please? File under the “hypocrasy” tag. And no, that’s not a misspelling.

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Filed under DipNote, Foreign Service, Funnies, John F. Kerry, Leadership and Management, Locally Employed Staff, Special Envoys and Reps, Spectacular, State Department

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

 

 

 

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

US Embassy Kenya: Ambassador Scott Gration Quits Over “Differences” Effective July 28

Ambassador Gration’s statement via the US Embassy in Kenya:

It has been a great honor and a profound privilege to be a part of the U.S. State Department team for the

English: Official photograph of U.S. Special E...

English: Official photograph of U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan Scott Gration (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

past three years and to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya and as the CEO of Team Kenya since May of 2011.  However, differences with Washington regarding my leadership style and certain priorities lead me to believe that it’s now time to leave.  Accordingly, I submitted my notice of resignation last Monday to the Secretary of State and to the President of the United States of America, to be effective as of 28 July 2012.

Being the U.S. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Kenya has been a dream job for my wife and me.  This assignment has been the perfect opportunity to use my deep-rooted knowledge of Kenya—its people, its language, and its culture—and my diplomatic, development, security, and humanitarian experience.  Judy and I have been extremely honored to lead Team Kenya, and we wish all of you the very best as Kenya implements its constitutional reforms, holds elections next year, and proceeds with the devolution of political and economic power.

I am very proud of my 35-year career of dedicated and honorable service to our great nation, leading at all times with integrity first and the highest ethical standards.  Judy and I are looking forward to returning to the work about which we are so passionate.  But as we depart, we will deeply miss Kenya, the Kenyan people, our partners in the diplomatic corps, and our colleagues in the U.S. Mission.  Our hearts will remain here with you and with the true friendships that will endure until death.

General Gration was a national security adviser to the Obama Presidential campaign and served as a Special Assistant to the President. He also served as the President’s Special Envoy to Sudan from March 2009 to April 2011.

On February 10, 2011, President Obama announced General Gration’s nomination to serve as the next U.S. Ambassador to Kenya.  He was confirmed by the Senate on April 14 and sworn in on April 19, 2011.

The Cable’s Josh Rogin has the scoop:

The impending release of a highly critical report by the State Department’s Inspector General’s office prompted the sudden resignation Friday of U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration, according to administration and congressional sources.

The report was described to The Cable by multiple people briefed on its contents as one of the worst reviews of an ambassador’s performance written by the IG’s staff in several years. The bulk of the criticisms focused on Gration’s terrible relationship with embassy staff since he took over as ambassador in February 2011 following a controversial two-year stint as President Barack Obama‘s special envoy for Sudan. The report is complete, but Gration still has the opportunity to write a formal response before the report is publicly released, these sources said.

We just checked, OIG has not posted the report online as of 5:44 pm EST. We’ll be in the lookout for that one.

Domani Spero

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Filed under Africa, Ambassadors, Countries 'n Regions, Obama, Political Appointees, Resignations, Special Envoys and Reps, State Department, U.S. Missions

US Embassy Kabul: Eileen O’Connor Moving from Afghanistan to SRAPistan?

We recently posted about the new and sparkling Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio at the US Embassy at the US Embassy in Kabul.  (See Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker “Dedicates” The Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio – to Whom?)

Our reliable Baghdad Kabul Nightingale amusingly informed us that the Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio is the only building in the complex that actually says what its purpose is, on the outside.  The Baghdad Kabul Nightingale is not counting “New Office Building” or “Existing Office Building,” aka, “Old Chancery Building,” and convinced that those two buildings were clearly not/not named by someone in public affairs.  Apparently, there are many other buildings in the embassy complex with boring names like DFAC, tower, staff housing, etc, or have state names like Michigan, Florida, etc.  The Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio is the only one that says “Broadcast Studio”; it’s the only one (at least for now) that says right on the front and the back exactly what it does.  The Baghdad Kabul Nightingale informs us that the public affairs folks over there clearly knew how to brand.

In a related but not unexpected news, word has it that Eileen O’Connor is leaving post soon, moving to DC and into the Office of the Special Rep for Af/Pak (SRAP); the late Richard Holbrooke’s old office now encumbered by Marc Grossman in Foggy Bottom.

Via US Embassy Kabul/Flickr | Minister of Border and Tribal Affairs Khalid greets Eileen O’Connor, Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy, U.S. Embassy, before the inauguration of the Access English program at Rahman Baba High School in Kabul, Afghanistan on Saturday, June 4, 2011. David Ensor is the guy with the red tie.

In any case, in 2010, we had David Ensor (formerly of CNN) over at the US Embassy in Kabul as Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy, a newly created title. He had since moved on to VOA in 2011.

He was soon replaced by former CNN/ABC correspondent Eileen O’Connor as Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy.  Don’t worry, she’s not leaving government service. If what we’re hearing is true, you will soon rub elbow with Ms. O’Connor at the State Department cafeteria.

So a now vacancy at US Embassy Kabul for a public affairs professional, huh? You can try Wolf Blitzer but you are wasting your time. Or John King who just lost his show, but it is an election year. Who wants to be in Kabul wrestling with the Taliban on Twitter when there is an Obama-Romney face off at the homefront?

We have just the right candidate for you, folks — and she’s somebody familiar, taa-daa! Dr. Liz Colton.

Dr. Colton previously worked as a journalist with firsthand experience abroad. She reported for Asia Week, a Reuters magazine, and was a London-based television producer for both NBC and ABC covering the Middle East and North Africa. She even has an Emmy for two ABC Nightly News pieces on Libya. Later she established Newsweek’s Middle East bureau in Cairo. She covered the Persian Gulf War and was even NPR’s State Department correspondent. And best of all, she is a former Foreign Service officer. One of ours.

Pardon me? Dr. Colton took the State Department to court for age discrimination? Oh heck, that’s like problematic, isn’t it?  Here’s a public affairs professional whose talents they could really use over there, they don’t need six months to get her up to speed, but she took State to court and while in an ongoing legal tussle, she was thrown off the airlock at 66… and …

But…but… DGHR is so full of nice people, surely they did not take that personally.

Domani Spero

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Filed under Afghanistan, Court Cases, FSOs, Public Diplomacy, Retirement, Special Envoys and Reps, State Department, US Embassy Kabul

Officially Moved: Derek J. Mitchell – from Special Rep for Burma to Burma

On May 17 President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Derek J. Mitchell as the next ambassador to the Union of Burma. The WH released the following bio:

Ambassador Derek J. Mitchell is Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma, with the rank of Ambassador, having been appointed by President Obama in August 2011.  Previously, he served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs.  Before joining the Administration in 2009, Ambassador Mitchell served as Senior Fellow and Director for Asia in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  He concurrently served as founding Director of the CSIS Southeast Asia Initiative, which was inaugurated in 2008.  From 1997 to 2001, Ambassador Mitchell was Special Assistant for Asian and Pacific Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.  During this time, his roles included Senior Country Director for China, Taiwan, Mongolia, and Hong Kong (2000-2001), Director for Regional Security Affairs (1998-2000), Senior Country Director for the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore (1998-1999), and Country Director for Japan (1997-1998).  Before joining the Department of Defense, he worked at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs as Senior Program Officer for Asia and the Former Soviet Union (1996-1997), and as Program Officer for Asia (1993-1996).  He began his career as Assistant to the Senior Foreign Policy Adviser to Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Ambassador Mitchell received a B.A. from the University of Virginia and an M.A. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

The last Senate-confirmed Ambassador to Burma was career diplomat, Burton Levin who served from 1987-1990. No ambassador was appointed to replace Levin, and there has been no U.S. ambassador in Burma since then.

More than a half dozen chargé d’affaires have been appointed head of mission in Rangoon since then:

  • Franklin P. Huddle, Jr. (September 1990–September 1994) – later became Ambassador to Tajikistan
  • Marilyn Meyers (September 1994–October 1996)
  • Kent M. Wiedemann (October 1996–May 1999) – later became Ambassador to Cambodia
  • Priscilla A. Clapp (July 1999–August 2002)
  • Carmen Maria Martinez (August 2002–August 2005) – later became Ambassador to Zambia in 2005-2008
  • Shari Villarosa (August 2005–September 2008) – officially nominated as Ambassador to Port Louis and The Seychelles in November 2011, nomination currently stuck in Senate.
  • Larry M. Dinger (September 2008–August 2011) – previously U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of the Fiji Islands, the Republic of Kiribati, the Republic of Nauru, the Kingdom of Tonga, and Tuvalu from July 2005 to June 2008 and U.S. Ambassador to the Federated States of Micronesia (2002–2004)
  • Michael Thurston (August 2011–present) – previously Consul General at USCG Melbourne, Australia (2008-2011) and prior to that he was the Team Leader of PRT Diyala, Iraq (2007-2008).

Domani Spero

Related item:

President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts | May 17, 2012

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US Consulate Mazar-e-Sharif: $80 Million and Wishful Thinking Down the Drain, and Not a Brake Too Soon

We have written previously about the US Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif in September 2009 (see New US Consulates Opening in Afghanistan) and December 2009 (see US Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif Moving Forward)


Also read The Skeptical Bureaucrat post in December 2009 (see DIY Home Renovation Opportunity in Mazar-e-Sharif) with photos. He described the Mazar Hotel as a “bit of a fixer-upper, but $26 million in U.S. taxpayer’s money ought to do wonders for the place.” He added that “The hotel’s pool is a big selling point. Full disclosure: the pool has no filter or purification system, so the water has to be changed every few days.”

It turns out that $26 million plus much more, now at $80 million did wonders for the place, but now WaPo is reporting that “American officials say they have abandoned their plans, deeming the location for the proposed compound too dangerous.”

Pardon us, but, but — who said that?

Excerpt below from Ernesto Londoño’s piece from WP, May 5:

“After signing a 10-year lease and spending more than $80 million on a site envisioned as the United States’ diplomatic hub in northern Afghanistan, American officials say they have abandoned their plans, deeming the location for the proposed compound too dangerous.

Eager to raise an American flag and open a consulate in a bustling downtown district of the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif, officials in 2009 sought waivers to stringent State Department building rules and overlooked significant security problems at the site, documents show. The problems included relying on local building techniques that made the compound vulnerable to a car bombing, according to an assessment by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that was obtained by The Washington Post.”

We imagine that Diplomatic Security will soon have another task added to its investigations – in addition to who leak the Eikenberry cables, then the Crocker cable — now, who leaked the US Consulate Mazar assessment by an acting management counselor out of the embassy in Kabul?

Wishful thinking down the drain-

The plan for the Mazar-e Sharif consulate, as laid out in a previously undisclosed diplomatic memorandum, is a cautionary tale of wishful thinking, poor planning and the type of stark choices the U.S. government will have to make in coming years as it tries to wind down its role in the war.

In March 2009, Richard C. Holbrooke, who had recently been appointed President Obama’s envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, lobbied for the establishment of a consulate in Mazar-e Sharif within 60 days, according to the memo.
[...]
“At the time, [Holbrooke] pushed hard to identify property and stand up an interim consulate, on a very tight timeline, to signal our commitment to the Afghan people,” according to the January memo by Martin Kelly, the acting management counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
[...]
The embassy memo says the facility was far from ideal from the start. The compound, which housed a hotel when the Americans took it on, shared a wall with local shopkeepers. The space between the outer perimeter wall and buildings inside — a distance known as “setback” in war zone construction — was not up to U.S. diplomatic standards set by the State Department’s Overseas Security Policy Board. The complex was surrounded by several tall buildings from which an attack could easily be launched.
[...]
“The Department nonetheless granted exceptions to standards to move forward quickly, establish an interim presence and raise the flag,” Kelly wrote.

Cutting corners in a war zone = presumably deadly consequences, if you work there

“Among the corners cut in the interest of expediency, the memo says, was failing to assess how well the facility could withstand a car bombing, a task normally carried out by the department’s Bureau of Overseas Building Operations.
[...]
Responding effectively to an emergency at the consulate would be next to impossible, Kelly noted, because the facility does not have space for a Black Hawk helicopter to land. It would take a military emergency response team 11 / 2 to 2 hours to reach the site “under good conditions,” he said.”

Then there is the embarrassing part – they know what you’re up to –

“In December, embassy officials began exploring alternative short-term sites for their diplomatic staff in northern Afghanistan. A Western diplomat familiar with the situation said the United States has sought, so far in vain, to persuade the German and Swedish governments to sublet it. The diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the matter, said European diplomats have found the prospect laughable.”

Read the full piece here.

Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and his wife Ching, along with a delegation of U.S. Embassy staff took a trip to Mazar-e-Sharif and met with Afghan officials. While there they visited the future site of a new U.S. consulate – 30 Mar 2011.
(Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr)

Photo from State Magazine

A quick search online indicate that the U.S. Embassy Mazar Consulate Project had a project date of Jan-2010 to Mar-2011.  Below is a description of the project posted online by Elite Construction:

“The scope of this project consisted of converting an existing Hotel structure to accommodate the U.S. Consulate in Mazar. This included the replacement of all infrastructure including water, sewer, electrical and communications facilities while maintaining the Architectural and structural systems of the building in accordance with U.S. Building Codes.”

Of course, while it is being built, there is also a need for a Temporary US Consulate, that contract apparently is held by JF Jones Company. (Correction: The Mazar Hotel is the temp Consulate, not sure who gets what of the pieces of this pie. A permanent consulate is on the design/build docket reportedly for 2017).

Then there are other companies doing the food and life support for consulate staff, security, concrete operation (photo), etc. They all add up.

Photo from State Magazine

A few thoughts occurred to us, some totally jaded:

1. Did anybody pause and thought, wait a minute, cutting corners in a war zone sounds totally loony? Right.

2. Did anyone write a dissent cable after building rule waivers were sought and granted? Yes? No? Good luck digging that up?

3. Perhaps a troubled conscience made somebody leaked this document to the Washington Post? Albeit too late to shave and save a few millions from the $80 million tab. But let’s give credit where credit is due, no one has died yet at the old Mazar Hotel, now new US Consulate and soon to be known as Holbrooke’s Folly, Eikenberry’s Folly, Clinton’s Folly, etc, but perhaps not Crocker’s Folly.

4. The report says that “After Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker arrived in Kabul in July, officials asked the bureau to conduct a blast assessment.”  Who were these officials? Were they newly arrived officials who were shocked out of their eyeballs when they saw the project?  Why did embassy officials not ask the bureau to conduct the assessment during Ambassador Eikenberry’s tenure, before the renovation got to the $80 million figure? What, no balls? Pardon me? Oh, no one wants to rock the boat?

5. $80 million is a lot of money; money that could build a school or two elsewhere in the United States, fund policemen, firemen, and teachers in some communities hurting across America.  It could feed our hungry kids, too, no kidding. Or it could also buy a lot of properties on the Monopoly board.

6. The raise the flag consulate as a signal to the Afghan people was more important than the safety of diplomatic personnel, in no less than a war zone? The same folks given a few hours of target practice at home and then sent off to the war zone equipped with thumbs and forefingers as guns.

7. Motive. Motive. Motive. Every leak has a motive, and that’s missing from the WaPo report.  And to borrow a quote from good old Sherlock, “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth” Holmes — there has to be a naked truth hiding behind this $80 million scratch off leak. Why was this leaked now? It’s not to save $80 million dollars.  Someone ought to complete Mr. Londoño’s piece, and answer the “Why?”

Domani Spero

Update: You may also want to read The Skeptical Bureaucrat’s Mazar-e-Sharif – The Mud, The Manure, And The Money and Peter Van Buren’s Wishful Thinking and Poor Planning: State Department Wastes $80 Million in Afghanistan over at HuffPo.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Afghanistan, Ambassadors, Follow the Money, Foreign Service, Leaks|Controversies, Skeptical Bureaucrat, Special Envoys and Reps, US Embassy Kabul

Ronan Farrow, New Clinton Special Adviser for Global Youth Issues Now in a Committed Relationship

Ronan Farrow, 2009Image via WikipediaRonan Farrow who was officially appointed Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for Global Youth Issues last June is apparently “in a committed relationship with Chef Boyardee” as he “ate microwaved StateDept convenience store food at desk after 10pm at least twice” last week.

Well, sure, I wanted to know what you ate for lunch at your desk every day of the week since you came back to Foggy Bottom but you never said/tweeted anything about having a committed relationship with Chef B or about the State Dept cafeteria food. And he did. And not just about any food either but our top US banker’s food, too!

Ronan Farrow
Pretty sure if #China found out what the @StateDept cafeteria’s passing off as Chinese food it’d cause a diplomatic incident.
19 Aug

Ronan Farrow whose real name according to the ever reliable Wikipedia is Satchel Ronan O’Sullivan Farrow is the son of film director Woody Allen and actress Mia Farrow.  He is also the grandson of director John Farrow and actress Maureen O’Sullivan. 

But that’s not why you should know him. Prior to this appointment, he worked in the late SRAP Richard Holbrooke’s Af/Pak shop. For those who might exclaim, “He’s so young!” or “But that’s Mia Farrow’s son!” — Mr. Farrow apparently has the chops.  He graduated from college at age 15 and was accepted at Yale Law at 16 but deferred his admission to work for Ambassador Holbrooke. He is a graduate of Yale Law School and a member of the New York bar.  He has a long list of accomplishments for one who is not even 25 years old.  He will feel right at home in an organization full of high achievers.  It’s a good thing he has his own office; the oldies not always goldies at State would not know what to do with him had he started in A100.

Below is his official bio at state.gov:

Ronan Farrow
Special Adviser to the Secretary of State
Global Youth Issues
Term of Appointment: 06/30/2011 to present

Ronan Farrow is Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for Global Youth Issues and director of the State Department’s Global Youth Issues office. With youth populations swelling and young people driving global events to an unprecedented extent, Special Adviser Farrow is responsible for implementing and amplifying youth policy and programming throughout the Department. The Office of Global Youth Issues, created by Secretary Clinton as a result of a Department-wide review of youth policy, oversees an historic effort to empower young people as economic and civic actors through US programs, encourage governments to respond to youth through US diplomacy, and directly engage young people around the world.

A lawyer and former human rights advocate and journalist, Special Adviser Farrow assumed his current role following two years as the State Department’s Special Adviser for Humanitarian and NGO Affairs in the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, overseeing the U.S. Government’s relationships with civil society and non-governmental actors.

Prior to joining the State Department, he served as Spokesperson for Youth at UNICEF, working with youth groups on the AIDS epidemic in Nigeria, on post-war reconstruction efforts in Angola, and in the Darfur region of Sudan. His writings on humanitarian and human rights issues have appeared in publications including the Los Angeles Times, the International Herald Tribune and the Wall Street Journal, and he has appeared on MSNBC, ABC and CNN, among others, advocating for children associated with armed conflicts. He has heavily emphasized youth engagement in his advocacy efforts, working at the forefront of the student movement on Darfur and touring the country speaking at universities as a Representative for the Genocide Intervention Network.

In 2008, he was awarded Refugees International’s McCall-Pierpaoli Humanitarian Award for “extraordinary service to refugees and displaced people.” In 2009, he was named by New York Magazine as their “New Activist” of the year and included on their list of individuals “on the verge of changing their worlds.” In 2010, Harper’s Bazaar named him their “up-and-coming politician of the year.”

He is a graduate of Yale Law School and a member of the New York bar. During his time at Yale Law School, he practiced at New York-based law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell. He has also served on the legal counsel team for the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, working on international human rights law issues.

Here he is at the UN during a meeting on youth at the General Assembly last month:

Full text of the speech is here.
 

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