Category Archives: US Embassy Kabul

State Dept Seeks Drug/Steroid Testing of Security Personnel in Afghanistan and Jerusalem

The State Department is looking for a contractor to provide drug and steroid screening of all Diplomatic Security employees in Afghanistan and Jerusalem. The announcement was posted on FedBiz on Apr 29, 2013  per Solicitation Number: RFI(04292013):

Via FedBiz

The Department of State (DoS) Office of Diplomatic Security (DS) is concerned with the well-being of its employees, the successful accomplishment of agency missions, and the need to maintain employee productivity. Many of the DS-hired U.S. Citizen (USC) and Third Country National (TCN) direct hire and/or contract positions in Afghanistan and Jerusalem involve the use of weapons and access to highly sensitive information that must not be compromised. It is critically important that such armed employees, or those employees exposed to extreme conditions, be reliable, stable, and show good use of judgment. Illegal drug and steroid use creates the possibility of coercion, influence, and irresponsible action under pressure, all of which may pose a serious risk to national defense, public safety, and security. Prior to deployment, all employees certify that drug testing and steroid screening is a nonnegotiable condition of employment.

This performance work statement defines the drug and steroid testing requirements (hereinafter referred to as “Substance Screening”) applicable to DS-hired USC and TCN direct hires and/or contract positions in Afghanistan and Jerusalem. In this document, DS will be referred to as the DS who will receive support from the Contractor. Employee will be the all-encompassing term for DS direct hires, personal services contractors, or third party contractors.

Below is part of the Scope of Work posted with the solicitation:

The Contractor shall be licensed to operate through the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) and Government of Israel, and shall be in full compliance with host country business requirements. The Contractor will be self-sufficient and required to provide all life support, travel and security needs for staff. In addition, the Contractor shall support all shipping, maintenance, and housing of equipment necessary to perform services. The Contractor will provide all resources to perform random and non-random Substance Screening, preferably at the following locations, with the corresponding number of estimated employees:

• Kabul: 1300
• Mazar e-Sharif: 150
• Herat: 175
• Jerusalem: 55

Random screening will be on a semiannual basis (every six months) as well as non-random substance testing. All random and non-random substance testing performed shall comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) Privacy and Security Rules (http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/summary/i

[...]

The Contractor shall be prepared to test for the following drugs utilizing a rapid urine test in Afghanistan and/or Israel, except for Steroid:

  • Amphetamine
  • Opiate
  • Benzodiazepine
  • Barbituates
  • Cocaine
  • Marijuana
  • Steroid: Refer to the following commonly abused steroids on the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NISA) website or at Steroidabuse.gov.

Security contractors in Afghanistan, particularly those in Kabul  have a um… colorful history (see POGO writes to Secretary Clinton about US Embassy Kabul Guards) so it’s only surprising that it took this long.  But it is  curious about Jerusalem though, isn’t it? Anyone knows what prompted this?

Update:  We understand from a blog pal that this may not be anything new as apparently drug screening is routinely done for “high threat protection” contractors.  Jerusalem has protection contractors that predates both Iraq and Afghanistan as it covers all official travel to Gaza and the West Bank.  But according to a Q&A posted online on FedBiz, these drug tests have not been performed in Israel in the past.

 

– DS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Consul Generals, Contractors, Diplomatic Security, Foreign Service, Functional Bureaus, Security, State Department, US Embassy Kabul

GOP’s Benghazi Report: Anonymous DS Agent, Whistleblowers and Embassy “Security”

There are three items we found interesting in Appendix I of the House GOP’s interim report on Benghazi.

House Committee on Government and Oversight Reform: The Committee has heard from, and continues to hear from, multiple individuals with direct and/or indirect information about events surrounding the attacks in Benghazi.

On April 17, CBS News reported that multiple new whistleblowers are privately speaking to investigators with the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and that the Committee had sent new letters to the CIA, DOD and State. If there are multiple whistleblowers as claimed here, we could be looking at Benghazi hearings going on all the way to 2014 and even 2016. By then Diplopundit Jr. would be old enough to drive and what more, junior would never ever again confused Benghazi with Bujumbura. So that’s something to look forward to.

House Foreign Affairs Committee: Approached a DS agent who was on the scene in a not-yet-successful effort to obtain additional information. This individual wishes to remain anonymous. 

The individual may wish to remain anonymous but that anonymity is not going to go very far inside the building. How many DS agents were on the scene of the attacks again?  That’s a pretty thin cover.  Poor guy won’t get any peace or space between now and then, whenever then maybe.

House Foreign Affairs Committee: Building on its Benghazi investigation, the Committee is taking a broader look at embassy security to determine whether the State Department is adequately protecting its personnel at other diplomatic facilities. Improving embassy security is a Committee legislative priority. The Committee is particularly concerned about, and is currently investigating, the security situation at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan. 

Well, then all we can add is that the Committee better hurry with the broader look Congress is doing before it’s too late.

It can start with the Consulate General in Jeddah

Want to go further than 2007?   Why don’t we try 30 years back with the US Embassy in Beirut?

Apparently, thirty long years after the Beirut embassy bombing, we might be close to finally building a Fortress in Beirut. Ay caramba but it’s now happening!

Proposal for the U.S. Embassy building in Beirut, conceived by Ralph Rapson in 1953.

Proposal for the U.S. Embassy building in Beirut, conceived by Ralph Rapson in 1953. This project is not related to the current one. (image via the Lebanese Architecture Portal – click on image to view original material)

While at it, Congress might want to see if the State Department bothered to learn anything from the embassy mob attacks last year since no ARB was ever convened.  We understand that in some of those posts attacked, there were strict orders from the front office to restrict dissemination of information and photos on the extent of the damages (US Embassy Tunis was one exception).

Might it be true that some of our embassies in the Arab Spring countries are trying to shape perceptions to what they imagine their embassy and host country should be instead of basing post and host country expectations on reality?

If the Committee is particularly concerned about the security situation at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan where we have a large number of contract guards and the U.S. military, should it not be also concerned with the U.S. Embassy in Egypt where neither is present and mobocacy now rules?

– DS

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Filed under Congress, Diplomatic Attacks, Diplomatic Security, Foreign Service, Govt Reports/Documents, Leaks|Controversies, New Embassy Compound, State Department, U.S. Missions, US Embassy Kabul

US Mission Afghanistan: New Ambassador Sworn in a Country Forgotten by Presidential Candidates

The new U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham was sworn in by Consular Officer Alissa Redmond at the U.S. Embassy on August 12 in Kabul.  Ambassador Cunningham previously served as Deputy Ambassador to Afghanistan.

Ambassador James Cunningham swearing-in at US Embassy Kabul.
Photo via US Embassy Kabul/Flickr
(click on photo to view the slideshow)

If you have the time and the interest, the swearing-in video including the ambassador’s speech is here.

Meanwhile, back here at home, the presidential campaigns are in full swing. The veepstakes finally has a winner.  And the Super PACs and the gazillionaires are doing their best spending obscene amounts of money to help “speed up” the economic recovery and get their man into the White House.  Really, you don’t think this economy would have been a lot, lot worse without all that money pouring in, all that election hiring, ad campaigns, pizza, etc. etc.  Thank god for the green slime!

And then, of course, with the line-up complete and the presidential campaigns in full swing, The New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins had the audacity to bring up that almost forgotten country of Afghanistan.

“How’s this for a conspiracy of silence? With less than three months to go until Election Day, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have successfully avoided saying almost anything about America’s war in Afghanistan. Remember that war?”

Do we really want to remember that in August we already have 289 coalition forces dead in Afghanistan? Or that attacks on U.S. and NATO troops by Afghan security forces, the so called ‘green-on-blue’ attacks which has resulted in death is already at 34, two less than the casualties from the entire 2011? Or that 108 civilian contractors have already died in Afghanistan in the first two quarters of 2012?

We do, we do, but who’s asking the candidates? Perhaps we need Will McAvoy to ask the candidates about their state of amnesia over these affairs far, far away, including green slime growing on trees or in somebody’s bank account.

Domani Spero

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US Mission Afghanistan: USAID Officer Ragaei Abdelfattah, Four Others Killed, Two Wounded in Suicide Attack in Kunar

A suicide attack on August 8 at the Kunar Province of Afghanistan killed USAID Officer Ragaei Abdelfattah, two soldiers, Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy and Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin and airman, Maj. Walter D. Gray. The attack also killed an unnamed Afghan civilian,  wounded an unnamed Foreign Service Officer and seriously wounded Col. James Mingus, the 4th Brigade’s  commander.

According to ABC News, the deadly attack took place Wednesday when two suicide bombers detonated suicide vests as a team of American military and civilian officials approached the provincial council’s office in Sarkowi in Kunar Province.

On August 9, Secretary Clinton released the following statement:

The United States strongly condemns the suicide attack yesterday in Kunar province, Afghanistan, that killed USAID Foreign Service Officer Ragaei Abdelfattah, three ISAF service members and an Afghan civilian, and injured a State Department Foreign Service officer. On behalf of President Obama and the American people, I have sent my deepest condolences to Ragaei’s family and to the entire U.S. Mission in Afghanistan.

Ragaei’s work over the last year was critical to our efforts to support Afghanistan’s political, economic, and security transitions and was an example of the highest standards of service. Over the last 15 months — partnering with local officials — he worked in eastern Afghanistan to help establish new schools and health clinics, and deliver electricity to the citizens of Nangarhar and Kunar provinces. Ragaei was so committed to our mission and to the people of Afghanistan that he volunteered to serve a second year.

With the work of people such as Ragaei, the civilian surge we launched in Afghanistan in 2009 has made a tremendous impact, strengthening the capacity of the Afghan Government and laying a foundation for long-term sustainable development. Though we are shocked and saddened by this loss and will miss Ragaei, our efforts will continue.

Read the entire statement here.

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah also released the following statement:

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On behalf of President Obama, Secretary Clinton and the American people, I have sent my deepest condolences to the family of USAID Foreign Service Officer Ragaei Abdelfattah who died yesterday in Afghanistan along with several members of the International Security Assistance Force and Afghan civilians during a terrorist attack in Kunar Province. This tragedy is a testament to the deep commitment and sacrifice of our dedicated staff who serve in conflict countries like Afghanistan around the world.

Ragaei recently began a voluntary second tour in Afghanistan in order to continue his critical support of Afghanistan’s stability and long-term development.  His hard work has helped to bring key services and improvements to the people of Afghanistan such as schools, health clinics, and electricity to the citizens of Nangarhar and Kunar provinces.

Prior to joining USAID, Ragaei had more than 15 years of professional development experience both in the United States and overseas. He was also working to complete a PhD in Planning, Governance, and Globalization at Virginia Tech University.

Read the whole statement here.

Mr. Abdelfattah is survived by his two teenage sons and wife.  We don’t know anything more about him except that he has a Picasa photo gallery with wonderful photos from Cairo and Luxor (and more) and that prior to joining USAID, he worked as a  planning supervisor for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

*  *  *

Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, 35, of West Point, N.Y., and Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, 45, of Laramie, Wyo who were killed in the same attack were assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Carson, Colo. According to DOD, they died Aug. 8, in Sarkowi, in Kunar province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when they encountered an insurgent who detonated a suicide vest.  Maj. Walter D. Gray, 38, of Conyers, Ga., was assigned  to the 13th Air Support Operations Squadron, Fort Carson, Colo.

Lohud.com reports that Major Kennedy entered the Army on May 27, 2000, after graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He leaves behind wife, Kami, and two twin children, a boy and a girl under age 2. He was awarded a Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart posthumously according to a DOD spokesman.

Sgt. Major Griffin had been deployed to Afghanistan since March 13. It was his first deployment in the country after having served three tours in Iraq. He had also been deployed to Kuwait and the Balkans during his Army career. Griffin was posthumously awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, according to information provided by Fort Carson.

The AP reports that Major Gray was commissioned in October 1997 through the Reserve Officer Training Corps after serving as an enlisted airman and was one of the Air Force’s first career air liaison officers.

Our thoughts and prayers to the families of the departed and the recovery of those wounded.

How. Many. More?

Domani Spero

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Filed under 67, Afghanistan, Foreign Policy, FSOs, Secretary of State, U.S. Missions, US Embassy Kabul, USAID, War

US Mission Afghanistan: But … DHS on the Deaths of Civilian Contractors in Herat

On Sunday, July 22, ISAF announced that “An individual wearing an Afghan National Security Force uniform turned his weapon against International Security Assistance Force contracted civilian employees in western Afghanistan today, killing three.  The individual who fired on the ISAF contracted civilian employees was killed during the engagement. The incident is currently under investigation.” ISAF did not release the names of the casualties.

This is getting old. Why don’t they just come out and say “An ANSF soldier killed three contractors hired to help …” And do we ever hear what happen with those investigations?

Reuters, citing NATO numbers reports that there have been 20 green on blue attacks on foreign troops since January in which 27 people have been killed.  It also says that “NATO commanders have downplayed most episodes as the work of disgruntled Afghan soldiers, rather than as evidence of Taliban infiltration of the security forces.”

According to NYT, since the start of 2010, there have been 52 green-on-blue attacks resulting in 82 deaths.  The Reuters report notes that this latest attack is not technically considered to be the 21st green on blue attack this year as the victims were all contractors.

The contractors are still dead. Here is an infographic from the New America Foundation:

Attacks on U.S and NATO Soldiers by Afghan Security Forces
Via www.Newamerica.net  under Creative Commons License

It looks like the US Embassy in Kabul made no statement of this incident, or if it did, the statement is not on its website.  Just the first half of July, the embassy has already condemned the Wedding Hall Suicide Attack (July 14, 2012), Condemns Attack in Kandahar (July 8, 2012) and Condemns the Public Execution of a Woman by the Taliban in Parwan (July 8, 2012).

Does anyone know what comes after condemnation? A drone?

But no condemnation for this, it seems.

On the day of the attack, US Embassy Kabul in Facebook was busy congratulating Romal Hamidi as its 12,000th fan. The next several hours, it posted items on the 2012 London Olympics, Ambassador Crocker hosting a reception for women’s rights leaders, Ambassador Crocker becoming a honorary marine, and something on ramadan.

On the day of the attack, over in the Twitters, @USEmbassyKabul writes:

I liked a @YouTube video http://youtu.be/coP5JlinXiE?a  U.S. Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement in Force.

The next several hours it mostly tweeted about Ambassador Crocker becoming a honorary marine.

And no mention of the dead.

On July 24, two days after the Herat killings, the DHS Press Office released a statement by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano:

“It is with great sadness that I learned this weekend of the fatal shooting of three contractors stationed at the Herat Training Center in Herat, Afghanistan. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of former U.S. Border Patrol Agent and retired ICE Agent Benjamin Monsivais, retired CBP Port Director Joseph Perez, and retired Her Majesty’s United Kingdom Revenue and Customs Officer David Chamberlain.

All three individuals were supporting Afghan Border Police training efforts when they came under attack. Their tragic deaths remind us of the dangers facing our men and women overseas, and the many sacrifices they make on our behalf every day.

Two other individuals were wounded in this senseless attack. We pray for the swift recovery and continued safety of former Border Patrol Agent Dana Hampton and language assistant Aimal Formully. We also applaud the tremendous bravery and heroism of the CBP Border Patrol Agent who responded to the attack and prevented the gunman from causing further harm and injury to others.”

Am I the only one who think it is kinda strange that Secretary Napolitano is the person making this statement and that Embassy Kabul and its social media ninjas maintained internet silence over this shooting? The deceased were contractors, two were American citizens.

At least the American Contractors in Iraq is keeping tally of the best kept secret in the warzones, the deaths of civilian contractors;  59 dead so far in the second quarter of 2012; 418 deaths in 2011.  Did you know that?

By the way, the Herat Regional Training Center completed a large-scale expansion project just last year, which reportedly increased its student numbers from 300 to 800 per course. The $4.2 million project added 59 structures to the Afghan National Security Forces training compound including: six two-story barracks which house nearly 600 student, two barracks for about five-dozen faculty, a new 300-person dining facility, latrines and showers, seven two-story classrooms, medical and administrative offices, storage and laundry facilities, and security bunkers.

If you build it, they will come … and they sure did, but they also come bearing arms with bullets bought with our money, and we’re too chicken to acknowledge that.

Domani Spero

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Filed under Afghanistan, Contractors, Huh? News, Media, Social Media, US Embassy Kabul, War

Photo of the Day: President Karzai Awards Afghanistan State Medal to US Ambassador Crocker

On July 16, President Karzai awarded Ambassador Ryan Crocker “the Allama Sayed Jamaluddin Afghan prestigious state medal for strengthening the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Afghanistan.”

Photo by ARG via US Embassy Kabul/FB

Here is the official statement from the presidential palace:

July 16, 2012- President Hamid Karzai awarded, in line with Item 19, Article 64  of Afghanistan Constitution, the “Allama Sayed Jamaluddin Afghan prestigious state medal” to Ryan Crocker, outgoing US Ambassador in appreciation of the praiseworthy services he has delivered in further strengthening Afghan-US relations and for accurately introducing Afghanistan to the people of America and the international community.

The special ceremony held on Monday to this end was attended by Dr. Zalmai Rasul Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Spanta National Security Advisor to the President and Abdul Karim Khuram Presidential Chief of Staff.

Ryan Crocker, whose diplomatic mission currently ended, has served as US Ambassador to Afghanistan from July, 2011 till now.

The palace statement did not say who is Allama Sayed Jamaluddin Afghan for which this state medal is named after.  As best we could tell, this is Sayed Jamaluddin Afghani also listed in the Wikipedia entry as “Jamal-al-Din al-Afghani” a political activist and Islamic ideologist born in 1838.  The Afghan Wiki has the following entry:

Al-Afghani is often described as one of the most prominent Islamic political leaders and philosophers of the nineteenth century. He was concerned with the subjection of the Muslim world by Western colonial powers, and he made the liberation, independence and unity of the Islamic world one of the major aims of his life. He provided a theoretical explanation for the relative decline of the Islamic world, and a philosophical theory of history which sought to establish a form of modernism appropriate to Islam.

Click here to read more.  Apparently in the 1880s, “Jamaluddin while in London encouraged the British to declare war on Tsarist Russia, and to get a Muslim Jehad in favor of the British, When he failed to achieve this aim, in 1887 he asked the same thing from Tsarist Russia to declare war on the British. Afghani knew well, since, Muslims and Asians cannot, match the military and economic power of Europeans, he wanted to get the support of the British or Tsarist Russia in order to fight the colonial powers.”

How come that sounds familiar …

Domani Spero

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Officially In: James B. Cunningham – from Kabul to Kabul

On July 17, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ambassador James B. Cunningham as the next Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador James B. Cunningham, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, is Deputy Ambassador at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.  Prior to his post in Kabul, Ambassador Cunningham served as the U.S. Ambassador to Israel from 2008 to 2011.  From 2005 to 2008, he was U.S. Consul General in Hong Kong.  Previous assignments include: Ambassador and Deputy U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations (1999-2004); Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Rome (1996-1999); Director of the State Department’s Office of European Security and Political Affairs (1993-1995); and Chief of Staff to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secretary General (1989-1990).  Earlier assignments include posts with the U.S. Mission to NATO, as well as posts at the U.S. Embassies in Rome and Stockholm.

Ambassador Cunningham received a B.A. in Political Science and a B.A. in Psychology from Syracuse University.

If confirmed, Ambassador Cunningham would succeed Ambassador Ryan Crocker currently doing the press rounds as he prepares to return to retirement a full year before his two year tenure was to end due to health reasons.

U.S. Deputy Ambassador gives remarks at the inauguration of the Ghazi School.
U.S. Deputy Ambassador to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham, Afghan Minister of Education Abdul Rahim Wardak and visitng former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmai Khalilzad officially inaugurated the newly rebuilt Ghazi High School in West Kabul October 23, 2011. Former alumni of the school include both Ambassador Khalilzad and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The school was destroyed during 30 years of fighting in Afghanistan, and was refurbished by the U.S. Agency for International Development. (Department of State)
click on image for a slideshow

As noted in his brief bio, Ambassador Cunningham was the chief of mission at the US Embassy in Israel prior to his assignment in Kabul in 2011.  So we dug up the OIG report during his tenure in Israel, which has some really good things to say about his three-year assignment in Tel Aviv:

  • The Ambassador has forged productive relationships with senior Israeli and Washington officials, adding significant value to one of the United States’ most sensitive and central bilateral relationships.
  • Given the intersection of U.S. foreign policy objectives, high-profile domestic attention to Israel, and historically intransigent issues, Embassy Tel Aviv’s leadership faces challenges matched in intensity in only three or four other world capitals. The Ambassador performs commendably in this context and has advanced the U.S. relationship with the Israeli Government in the 2 years since his arrival.
  • Because few bilateral relationships attract the attention of as many senior American officials as the relationship with Israel, the Ambassador has a unique opportunity to interact daily or weekly with the President; National Security Adviser; Secretary of State; top legislators, military figures, and their senior staffs; the SEMEP; the general who heads the Roadmap Monitoring Mission; and the general who acts as the USSC.
  • Embassy section heads described the Ambassador as a masterful briefer of Members of Congress and senior U.S. military officers; his astute grasp of the forces at play in Israel helps shape their views and programs.
  • The heads of U.S.agencies at the embassy were unanimous in their appreciation for the Ambassador’s support for and involvement in their work.

The report has the following item, too, which if uncorrected would make managing one of the largest embassies in the world a double challenge:

Communication within the mission is limited. The Ambassador is respected for his intellectual ability but rarely interacts with employees below the most senior ranks.

He is reportedly a persuasive speaker; we’re looking forward to his confirmation hearing and see if he’ll make us feel any better about our prospects in Afghanistan.

Domani Spero

Related items:

OIG Report No. ISP-I-11-31A – Inspection of Embassy Tel Aviv, Israel – March 2011

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

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Filed under Afghanistan, Ambassadors, FSOs, Govt Reports/Documents, Leadership and Management, Nominations, Officially In, US Embassy Kabul

More Independence Day Celebrations 2012 – Around the Foreign Service

Catch up post on additional Fourth of July celebrations around the Foreign Service this year that caught our eye. The previous one we did is here: Independence Day Celebrations 2012 – Around the Foreign Service Round-Up.

US Mission Mexico

Guadalajara, Jalisco: Los Vice Cónsules Nick Geisinger y Timothy J. Dunaway interpretaron el himno nacional estadounidense durante la celebración.
Click on image for more photos of the Fourth of July celebrations in our Mexican posts.

US Embassy Paris, France

Ambassador Charles H. Rivkin at the 4th of July Garden Party, Ambassador’s Residence, July 4th, 2012.  More photos via FB here.

US Embassy Nassau, The Bahamas

On Tuesday, July 3 the United States Embassy commemorated the 236th Anniversary of Independence of the United States of America by hosting a celebration in Nassau, The Bahamas aboard the U.S. Naval Ship USS ANZIO docked at Prince George Wharf.  The event was held in partnership with the United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and included more than 200 of The Bahamas’ top leaders, representing the government, the business community, civil society, media, and the arts.

U.S. Charge d’Affaires John Dinkelman gives official remarks and toast at the 4th of July celebration. (Photo State Dept.)

US Embassy Dublin, Ireland

On July 4 2012, U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney and his wife Patricia celebrated American Independence Day and hosted at their Residence in the Phoenix Park in Dublin the Third Irish American Flag Football Classic. Over 2,500 guests were in attendance for the Independence Day celebrations.

Photo from US Embassy Dublin/Flickr
(click on image for a slideshow)

US Consulate General Chennai, India

Photo via USCG Chennai/Flickr
Click on photo for a slideshow

US Embassy Afghanistan

U.S. Ambassador Stephen G. McFarland, the Coordinating Director of Rule of Law and Law Enforcement shakes hands with a Marine after he received his naturalization certificate on 29 June 2012 at Kandahar Air Field in Afghanistan. Click on image for more photos

Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr

US Embassy Cairo, Egypt

Ambassador Patterson on the dance floor during the Fourth of July celebration.  Photo from US Embassy Egypt via FB
Click on image for a slideshow

US Mission Pakistan – Islamabad

Photo via US Embassy Islamabad website

US Mission Pakistan – USCG Lahore

Consul General Nina Maria Fite hosted U.S. Independence Day reception at her residence. She was joined by Chief Guest Senior Advisor to the Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Zulfiqar Khan Khosa, U.S. Army Attaché Colonel Kurt H. Meppen, and USAID Punjab Director Theodore Gehr, and 400 guests from various walks of life. The event included the playing of the Pakistani and U.S. national anthems and a cutting of a cake.

Photo via USCG Lahore/FB

US Embassy Rome, Italy

Visitors arriving at the Villa Taverna for the Fourth of July celebration.  Photo via US Embassy Rome/Flickr
Click on photo for a slideshow

US Embassy Bangkok, Thailand

The theme of U.S. Embassy Bangkok Independence Day Celebration for this year is “The Great American Roadtrip.”

US Embassy Vientiane, Laos

Photo from Ambassador Karen Stewart’s Tumblr.
Click on image to read about it in the ambassador’s blog

US Embassy Beijing, China

Ambassador Gary Locke cutting the Fourth of July cake. Photo from US Embassy Beijing/Flickr. Click on photo for a slideshow

US Consulate General Hong Kong & Macau

Probably the most popular US mission online post for this Fourth of July, 11,000 forward and still counting. Via the WSJ:

For the July 4 commemoration of U.S. Independence, it stepped back into history to tweak the Party with its own words.  Accompanied by an exuberant image of the Stars and Stripes, its Weibo posting said:

On this day each year, joy and glory is felt by every good and honest person in this world. From the birth of this new nation, democracy and science were seeded beneath the foundations of a new liberal world… Day and night, the god of liberty shines her torchlight of freedom into the darkest corners of the earth, providing warmth for those who have suffered and reminding them there is still hope left yet.

This post quickly gained popularity and has now been forwarded more than 11,000 times.

Let’s see how long before the Chinese tigers bite.

Domani Spero

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Afghanistan, Ambassadors, Countries 'n Regions, Facebook, Flickr, Foreign Service, Holidays and Celebrations, India, Round-Up, Social Media, U.S. Missions, US Embassy Egypt, US Embassy Kabul

Clinton Makes Pit Stop in Kabul En Route to Tokyo, Declares Afghanistan New MNNA

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan during on an unannounced visit to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai ahead of the Tokyo conference on Afghanistan’s reconstruction.

Additional footage here during her stop at the Kabul International Airport.

During the visit, she also announced the designation of Afghanistan as a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA).  President Obama signed the MNNA designation for Afghanistan on July 6.  Afghanistan is the first country to be designated an MNNA since 2004.

According to the embassy statement “MNNA qualifies a country for certain privileges supporting defense and security cooperation but does not entail any security commitment to that country. Some of the privileges of MNNA status include eligibility for training, loans of equipment for cooperative research and development, and ultimately Foreign Military Financing for commercial leasing of certain defense articles.”

The following Presidential Determinations designated the countries listed as major non-NATO allies of the United States for purposes of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151 et seq.) and the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2751 et seq.):
Determination No. 97–4, Nov. 12, 1996, 61 F.R. 59809.—Jordan.
Determination No. 98–9, Jan. 6, 1998, 63 F.R. 3635.—Argentina.
Determination No. 2002–10, Mar. 14, 2002, 67 F.R. 13247.—Bahrain.
Determination No. 2004–02, Oct. 6, 2003, 68 F.R. 59855.—Philippines.
Determination No. 2004–16, Dec. 30, 2003, 69 F.R. 2053.—Thailand.
Determination No. 2004–21, Jan. 15, 2004, 69 F.R. 4843.—Kuwait.
Determination No. 2004–35, June 3, 2004, 69 F.R. 34049.—Morocco.
Determination No. 2004–37, June 16, 2004, 69 F.R. 38797.—Pakistan.

Could not find the citations for this but five countries were apparently declared MNNA by President Bush I in 1989: Australia, Egypt, Israel, Japan, and South Korea.  New Zealand was added to the list in 1997 by President Clinton. So Afghanistan is the 15th member of this very small club.

In the meantime, before departing for the donors’ conference in Tokyo, Secretary Clinton told reporters, “We are not even imagining abandoning Afghanistan.”

Somewhere in the air space between Kabul and Tokyo, Hamid Karzai could not keep his smiles in a single file.

Domani Spero

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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