Tag Archives: Pakistan

U.S.Embassies Face Host Country Harassment:  From Petty Actions to Poisoning of Family Pets

– Domani Spero

 

ABC News’ Kirit Radia wrote recently about how the US Embassy in Moscow is facing cold war-era harassment:

One American diplomat’s tires were slashed. Another’s personal email was hacked. Still others reported mysterious break-ins.

The incidents are all signs, U.S. officials and experts said, that aggressive, Soviet-era counterintelligence tactics are back in fashion in Russia.

The number of incidents targeting American diplomats in Moscow has increased in recent years to levels not seen since the Cold War, officials said.

Taken together, they paint an escalating pattern of intimidation and harassment that is believed to be led by Russia’s Federal Security Services (FSB), a successor to the Soviet KGB.
[….]
Some of the alleged Russian actions seemed petty. In several instances, U.S. officials returned home to find their belongings had been moved or a window left open in the middle of winter. American diplomats have also been trailed more overtly by Russian security agents.

Others attempted to interfere with diplomatic work, like disrupting public meetings with Russian contacts. Uniformed guards provided by Russia to stand outside the embassy, ostensibly for protection, have harassed visitors and even employees trying to enter the building.
[…]
Ambassador McFaul was followed almost everywhere he went in an aggressive, at times threatening way by both Russian security agents and pro-Kremlin television stations, even while attending private events with his family.

In one notably flagrant episode, according to officials, McFaul was stranded in the Russian Foreign Ministry parking lot after police stopped his driver for a minor infraction and revoked his driver’s license on the spot.

Read in full: US Embassy in Moscow Faces Cold War-Era Harassment.

On October 29, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it believed “the allegations could have been cooked up at the suggestion of the U.S. State Department,” according to TASS and accused the United States of spying on official Russians in the United States, as well as the following:

[T]he United States is making regular attempts to recruit our diplomats by means of gross provocations involving the use of illegally obtained personal data, including information on the health of family members,” the Russian Foreign Ministry stressed.

Perhaps this is in reference to the 49 Russian Diplomats/Spouses Charged With Picking Uncle Sam’s Pocket in Medicaid Scam? That one where the FBI says that of the 63 births to the Russian diplomats and their spouses in New York City between the years 2004 and 2013, 58 of those families, or 92% were allegedly paid for by Medicaid benefits.

In any case, we can tell you that the U.S. Embassy in Moscow is not alone when it comes to host country harassment.

Belarus

In Belarus where parliamentary democracy ended with the 1994 presidential election of Alexander Lukashenko, staff members at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk, both American and local nationals have also been subjected to regular harassment by the Belarusian security services.  “To visit Embassy Minsk is to step back in time to an era when American diplomats in Eastern Europe operated in inhospitable environments,” reports the OIG. The following is excerpted from the State/OIG inspection report from September 2013:

American staff residences have been entered surreptitiously [REDACTED]. The embassy and all U.S. and Belarusian staff are under constant physical surveillance.
[…]
Staff members operate on the assumption that everything sent on unclassified systems or spoken on the telephone is monitored by Belarusian security services and other local security agencies. See OIG, Belarus September 2013 (pdf).
[…]
In July 2012 authorities installed police checkpoints at all embassy gates and at the public affairs office. Police take personal information from both U.S. and Belarusian citizens before allowing visitors to enter. Except in rare cases, when U.S. Government officials make temporary visits to Minsk, host-country authorities require that an equivalent number of permanent American staff members leave the country to maintain the five-person limit. This restriction and persistent harassment hamper mission operations and program implementation.

Take a look at this current staffing that has been the norm for a while:

Screen Shot 2014-10-29

Pakistan

In May 2012, State/OIG noted the official harassment of US Mission Pakistan by the Pakistani Government.  We should note that Pakistan is the 3rd largest recipient of U.S. foreign assistance in FY2012 at $1.821B, after Israel and Afghanistan. In the FY 2014 budget request, Pakistan slipped to #4, dislodged by Egypt, but still receiving foreign assistance in the amount of $1.2B.  Below is what the OIG inspector wrote about the harassment of U.S. mission elements in Pakistan; most of the section on this topic, of course, is redacted from the report:

Official Pakistani obstructionism and harassment, an endemic problem in Pakistan, has increased to the point where it is significantly impairing mission operations and program implementation (REDACTED (b) (5).  The issue of harassment must be made an integral part of high-level policy discussions with the Pakistani Government regarding the future of the bilateral relationship.
[...]
Official Harassment:  U.S. official entities operating in Pakistan have long been subjected to unusual, government-initiated obstructionism and harassment. That harassment has reached new levels of intensity, however, after the events of 2011. The embassy describes the harassment as deliberate, willful, and systematic. While other diplomatic missions have experienced similar treatment, the United States is clearly the principal target. The harassment takes many forms: delayed visa issuances; blocked shipments for both assistance programs and construction projects; denials of requests for in-country travel; and surveillance of and interference with mission employees and contractors. (REDACTED).

The scope and impact of official Pakistani harassment and obstructionism is described in the Background section of this report.  (LOOONG REDACTION).

The good news here is that so far, except in Homeland, no ex-CIA director has yet been kidnapped and spirited out of Islamabad while locked in the trunk of a car.

Cuba

Beyond petty harassment like blocked shipments and delayed visa issuance, perhaps the worse ones are reports of harassment out of Havana, Cuba where the OIG in 2007 says that “USINT life in Havana is life with a government that “let’s you know it’s hostile.”

Apparently, retaliations at that time have ranged from the petty to the poisoning of family pets. The regime had also gone to great lengths to harass some employees by holding up household goods and consumable shipments. The apparent goal apparently, had been  “to instigate dissension within USINT ranks. “

C’mon, poisoning the pets?!

Fast forward to 2014 and not much have changed.  Here is what the OIG report says:

  • Mission employees face a difficult working environment. U.S. officers can meet only with certain government officials. They are allowed to travel only a limited distance from Havana without special permission. Shipments of supplies, mail, and personal effects are frequently delayed. Normal banking operations are nonexistent. Consumer goods are scarce and expensive. Communication facilities are substandard.
  • Surveillance of U.S. and local employee staff members by Cuban authorities is pervasive.
  • USINT officers’ travel is limited to within Havana province. Permission to travel outside that area requires sending a diplomatic note a minimum of 5 days before travel begins.
  • Shipments of official procurements take 6 months or more to be cleared even after receiving pre-clearance from the Ministry of External Relations–another lengthy process. Unclassified pouches with personal mail are often rejected and sent back to the United States. Incoming household effects, which take 1 day to sail from Miami to Havana, have sat for months in the port awaiting clearance; the same holds for personal vehicles and consumables.
  • Cuban customs authorities open and x-ray both inbound and outbound shipments before they will clear them.

At least there’s no more poisoning of the family pets of the U.S. Interest Section Havana staffers.  And no one, as far as we know, has been reported to accept the offer of  “*Cigars, señora?” from a handsome young man. (*from an FS spouse short fiction about life in Cuba via American Diplomacy).

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Congressional Service Reports and Briefs — September 2014

– Domani Spero

 

Note that most of the docs below via state.gov are in pdf format:

-09/25/14   The United Arab Emirates (UAE): Issues for U.S. Policy  [440 Kb]
-09/24/14   Japan – U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress  [716 Kb]
-09/24/14   The “Khorasan Group” in Syria – CRS Insights  [55 Kb]
-09/24/14   Unaccompanied Alien Children: Demographics in Brief  [307 Kb]
-09/22/14   Climate Summit 2014: Warm-Up for 2015 – CRS Insights  [60 Kb]
-09/19/14   American Foreign Fighters and the Islamic State: Broad Challenges for Federal Law Enforcement – CRS Insights  [57 Kb]
-09/18/14   Energy Policy: 113th Congress Issues  [242 Kb]
-09/18/14   Russia’s Compliance with the INF Treaty – CRS Insights  [55 Kb]
-09/17/14   Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance  [670 Kb]
-09/17/14   Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response  [880 Kb]
-09/16/14   Proposed Train and Equip Authorities for Syria: In Brief  [288 Kb]
-09/16/14   The U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (KORUS FTA): Provisions and Implementation  [589 Kb]
-09/15/14   Instances of Use of United States Armed Forces Abroad, 1798-2014  [484 Kb]
-09/15/14   Iraq: Politics, Governance, and Human Rights  [499 Kb]
-09/15/14   Man Without a Country? Expatriation of U.S. Citizen “Foreign Fighters”  [58 Kb]
-09/12/14   Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs  [340 Kb]
-09/10/14   Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response  [647 Kb]
-09/10/14   Diplomatic and Embassy Security Funding Before and After the Benghazi Attacks [413 Kb]
-09/10/14   The “Islamic State” Crisis and U.S. Policy  [562 Kb]
-09/10/14   U.S. Foreign Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean: Recent Trends and FY2015 Appropriations  [368 Kb]
-09/09/14   Considerations for Possible Authorization for Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State – CRS Insights  [56 Kb]
-09/09/14   U.S. Military Action Against the Islamic State: Answers to Frequently Asked Legal Questions  [355 Kb]
-09/08/14   Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response  [633 Kb]
-09/08/14   Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy  [737 Kb]
-09/05/14   China’s Leaders Quash Hong Kong’s Hopes for Democratic Election Reforms – CRS Insights  [57 Kb]
-09/05/14   Defense Surplus Equipment Disposal, Including the Law Enforcement 1033 Program [272 Kb]
-09/05/14   Protection of Trade Secrets: Overview of Current Law and Legislation  [433 Kb]
-09/05/14   U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues  [512 Kb]
-09/04/14   Ukraine: Current Issues and U.S. Policy  [365 Kb]
-09/03/14   Pakistan Political Unrest: In Brief  [250 Kb]

 

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State Dept Seeks Security Protective Specialists: 45K+, Limited Non-Career Appointments

– Domani Spero

 

Via usajobs.gov:

On October 6, the State Department opened the application period for Security Protective Specialists (SPS).

The Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) is seeking highly qualified and motivated men and women with extensive experience in protective security operations to serve in the Foreign Service at certain U.S. embassies, consulates and regional offices abroad.

This workforce will be deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and North and South Sudan and other high threat posts to supplement DS Special Agents in the supervision of contractor personnel and the provision of personal protection for Department employees. As members of a diplomatic team, Security Protective Specialists not only help to accomplish the mission of the Department of State, but also represent the United States to the people of other nations.

Screen Shot 2014-10-08

 

All assignments will be at the needs of the service. After the initial tour, SPSs may be transferred to other high threat posts overseas for two consecutive 2-year tours of duty.

There is no provision for election of post of assignment.

A limited, non-career appointment to the Foreign Service involves uncommon commitments and occasional hardships along with unique rewards and opportunities. A decision to accept such an appointment must involve unusual motivation and a firm dedication to public service. The overseas posts to which SPSs will be assigned may expose the employee to harsh climates, health hazards, and other discomforts and where American-style amenities may be unavailable. Assignments to Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, are particularly challenging and may result in bodily injury and/or death. However, a limited appointment to the Foreign Service offers special rewards, including the pride and satisfaction of representing the United States and protecting U. S. interests at home and abroad.

Job Details:

Security Protective Specialists must perform duties in the field that are physically demanding. SPSs must be willing and able to meet these physical demands in high-stress, life and death situations. The SPS’s life and the lives of others may depend upon his/her physical capabilities and conditioning. Candidates must pass a thorough medical examination to include Supplemental Physical Qualification Standards. A qualified candidate may not have a medical condition which, particularly in light of the fact that medical treatment facilities may be lacking or nonexistent in certain overseas environments, would constitute a direct threat to the health or safety of the individual or others, or would prevent the individual from performing the duties of the job.

Security Protective Specialists are required to perform protective security assignments with physical demands that may include, but are not limited to, intermittent and prolonged periods of running, walking, standing, sitting, squatting, kneeling, climbing stairs, quickly entering and exiting various vehicles, enduring inclement weather which may include excessive heat, as well as carrying and using firearms.

Security Protective Specialists perform other functions that may require jumping, dodging, lying prone, as well as wrestling, restraining and subduing attackers, or detainees. SPSs must be able, if necessary, to conduct security inspections that may require crawling under vehicles and other low clearances or in tight spaces such as attics and crawl spaces.

Sometimes it may be necessary for a SPS to assist with installing or maintaining security countermeasures, which might involve lifting heavy objects and working on ladders or rooftops. SPSs must be skilled at driving and maneuvering a motor vehicle defensively or evasively in a variety of situations and at various speeds.

Security Protective Specialist candidates are expected to already possess many of the skills discussed in previous paragraphs but all will receive identical training to insure consistency. This training will include firearms training, defensive tactics, restraining an attacker and specialized driving techniques. SPS candidates must be able to participate in and complete all aspects of their training.

Candidates must be willing and able to travel extensively throughout the world. Traveling and assignments abroad may involve working in remote areas where traditional comforts and medical facilities are limited. SPSs may be required to travel to locations of civil unrest where conditions are potentially hostile and where performance of duties is conducted under hazardous circumstances.

No felony convictions:

Applicants for the Security Protective Specialist position must not have been convicted of any felony charge. In accordance with the Lautenberg Amendment to the Gun Control Act, a person convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence may not possess a firearm. Applicants must be able to certify that they have not been convicted of any such violation and that they are not otherwise prohibited from possessing firearms.

The job page includes a new section on reasonable accommodation (most probably steaming from the recent EEOC ruling):

The Department of State provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities. Applicants requiring reasonable accommodations for any part of the application or hiring process should so advise the Department at ReasonableAccommodations@state.gov within one week of receiving their invitation. Decisions for granting reasonable accommodations are made on a case-by-case basis.

Read the entire announcement here.

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State Department on PTSD Workers’ Comp Claims: How Well Is This Working?

– Domani Spero

 

We received a note recently from a reader who is deeply concerned about his/her State Department friend diagnosed with PTSD from an assignment in a war-torncountry. The condition is allegedly aggravated by the lack of understanding on the part of the officer’s superiors who “pressured” the employee to return to another “very stressful/high pressure work duties.”

“My friend was not shot, raped, tortured or maimed by explosive devices. No single, well-defined, event happened. That said, s/he/it now lives a life far more constrained by physiological barriers due to time spent in dangerous climes.”

That got us looking at what resources are available to State Department employees suffering from PTSD.  We found the following information on state.gov.

Employees working in high threat environments such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya and Yemen may develop symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of their performance of duty.

PTSD may be basis for a workers’ compensation claim under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA). The FECA is administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). If an OWCP claim is accepted, benefits may include payment of medical expenses and disability compensation for wage loss.

When an employee develops any mental health symptoms, including symptoms of PTSD, he/she is encouraged to make a confidential appointment with a counselor in the Office of Medical Services (MED)’s Employee Consultation Services (ECS) office. If the initial evaluation indicates symptoms suggestive of PTSD, ECS will refer the employee to MED’s Deployment Stress Management Program (DSMP) for further evaluation. A psychiatrist designated by DSMP will document the initial symptoms for the OWCP claim form (CA-2) and CA-20 (Attending Physician’s Statement). If the employee requires assistance in completing the OWCP claims package, HR’s Office of Casualty Assistance (OCA) will help the employee gather the required documentation, complete the necessary paperwork, and submit the claims package.

OWCP has advised the Department that PTSD claims will be handled expeditiously. PTSD claims from Department employees have been successfully adjudicated by OWCP in the past. The Office of Employee Relations (HR/ER) will remain the point of contact with OWCP. HR/ER will provide consultation, advice and guidance on the OWCP process and on issues regarding the employee’s use of leave (annual, sick, and use of FMLA), disability accommodation options, and benefits. HR/ER will manage the employee’s claim after OWCP receives it and continue in its liaison role with OWCP to meet the employee’s needs.

Some PTSD patients may require treatment by a specialist outside of the Department of State. For such cases, MED/DSMP may refer the employee to an outside provider. MED will cover the initial cost of treatment until OWCP accepts the claim, submitted by the employee through HR, and OWCP will reimburse MED once the claim is accepted. If OWCP does not accept the case as work-related, the employee should submit the medical bills to his/her insurance carrier to reimburse MED for the initial treatment costs. Subsequent treatment costs will be the responsibility of the employee’s health insurance provider.

Throughout this process, the Office of Casualty Assistance (OCA) will assist the employee and his/her family as they adjust to the employee’s medical condition and explore various options affecting their career with the Department. OCA’s role is to assist the employee with paperwork and coordinate with other Department offices as appropriate.

Workers’ Comp Resources: (* = Intranet Website)

DoL Workers’ Compensation Program Website
OWCP Forms: CA-2 CA-2a CA-20 (pdf)
DoL’s Publication CA-801

DoS Office of Casualty Assistance (OCA)* Tel: 202-736-4302
DoS Office of Employee Relations (HR/ER)*

Email: HRWorkersCompensation@state.gov

 

Frankly, the Office of Casualty Assistance (OCA) has not been terribly impressive. So we’d like to know how responsive is OCA at State when it comes to offering assistance to employees with PTSD who had to deal with worker’s comp?

And how well is DOL’s Workers’ Comp program working if you have PTSD?

We must add that while PTSD is typically associated with assignments to high threat environments such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya and Yemen, Foreign Service employees and family members are assigned to over 280 posts around the world.  Some of these assignment are to war-torn countries in Africa that are not priority staffing posts like AIP or are in critical crime posts such as some cities in Mexico, the DRC, and several posts in the Western Hemisphere (looking at Honduras, Guate and El Salvador). Studies show that crime events are also associated with high rates of PTSD.   The focus on PTSD and employees in high threat environments in the state.gov information above excludes a long list of critical crime posts and appears to discount, by omission, crime-related PTSD and post-traumatic experience in posts not located in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya and Yemen.

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U.S. Embassy Islamabad Issues Security Message on Ongoing Violent Protests in Pakistan

– Domani Spero

 

We were happy to say goodbye to Awful August but here we are in September and our unsettled times continue its march. On September 1, the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan issued a Security Message to U.S. citizens urging caution due to continuing protests in the country . People have been reported killed and injured in the unrest that turned violent over the weekend. The Consular Section at Embassy Islamabad had been previously closed to the public on Aug 15 – 18 and August 20-21 due to the protests in the capital city.

 

 

Below is an excerpt from the September 1 message:

The U.S. Embassy cautions U.S. citizens in Islamabad to avoid the Red Zone due to continuing protests in the area which have become violent. Hundreds of people have been reported injured and at least three people reportedly killed since protests turned violent on Saturday, August 30th.  Additional demonstrations have been called for throughout Pakistan.  Furthermore, there have been reports of opportunistic criminal activity in the city, to which American Citizens should be alert.  The Embassy has advised its employees to limit their movements, and we recommend that U.S. citizens observe the same precaution. All U.S. citizens are advised to monitor the situation via local media, stay clear of all known demonstration routes and areas, keep a low profile, exercise caution, and avoid large gatherings.  Currently, the Embassy is scheduled to be open on Tuesday, September 2 for normal services.  U.S. citizens who are in Pakistan or who may be contemplating a visit to Pakistan are reminded to review the U.S. Department of State’s Travel Warning dated August 8, 2014.

We remind U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.  Rallies, demonstrations, and processions occur regularly throughout Pakistan on very short notice and have often taken on an anti-American or anti-Western character.  U.S. citizens are urged to avoid demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations.  U.S. citizens should follow media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times.  Scheduled or unscheduled protests may result in road closures, high volumes of road traffic, or other movement restrictions.

The U.S. Embassy in Pakistan urges U.S. citizens to vary their times and routes when traveling anywhere in Pakistan, and to avoid travel patterns to such locations that would allow other persons to predict when and where they will be.  Depending on ongoing security assessments, and as part of routine operational security measures, the U.S. Mission occasionally places areas such as hotels, markets, airports, and/or restaurants off limits to official personnel.

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USCG Karachi: Goodbye Michael Dodman, Hello Brian Heath

– Domani Spero

 

 

USCG Karachi’s Consul General Michael Dodman recently concluded his 2-year tour in Pakistan.  Here is a memorable photo of Mr. Dodman showing his dance moves at the historic Kot Diji Fort in the Khairpur District of Pakistan’s southeastern province of Sindh.

Photo via USCG Karachi/Flickr

Photo via USCG Karachi/Flickr

Brian Heath assumed charge as the U.S. Consul General in Karachi on August 20, 2014. USCG Karachi released the following official bio:
 A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Mr. Heath most recently served as the Minister-Counselor for Management Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Since joining the Foreign Service in 1998, Mr. Heath’s overseas assignments have included Director of the U.S. Regional Embassy Office in Al Hillah, Iraq; Consul General at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, Pakistan; Management Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi, Pakistan; General Services and Human Resources officers at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany; and Consular Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai (Bombay), India.
In the course of several assignments in Washington, DC, Mr. Heath has studied at the National War College; worked as a Senior Advisor in the Under Secretary of State for Management’s Office of Management Policy; and served as a Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Administration. Mr. Heath is the recipient of multiple Department of State Superior and Meritorious honor awards.
Mr. Heath graduated from Fordham University with a Bachelor’s degree in political economics, earned a law degree from Rutgers University, and received his Master’s degree in national security studies from the National War College. He is a member of the New Jersey and New York State bars.

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

– Domani Spero

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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US Embassy Attacks: Year in Review — 2013

– Domani Spero

In early May, Diplomatic Security released its annual Year in Review publication detailing attacks on diplomatic personnel/facilities for the past year. In 2013, attacks against American posts and staff occurred in the Philippines, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo, Pakistan, Brazil, Ethiopia,  and the Congo.  While majority of the attacks were against USG properties, there were casualties, killed and/or wounded in Ankara, Zabul, Kabul, Herat and  Taji.  It is important to note that those killed or wounded in these attacks include not only American personnel/contractors but also local employees, local contract guards, local policemen, and civilians.

The following details extracted from State/DS publication Confronting Danger, Year in Review 2013:

January 25 – Manila, Philippines:  Some 15 to 20 protesters gathered across the street from the main gate of the U.S. Embassy to rally against the Visiting Forces Agreement. Police prevented them from approaching any closer, but they managed to throw red paint on the U.S. seal, journalists, and police officers.

January 28 – Manila, Philippines: Approximately 50 protesters gathered across from the consular section of the U.S. Embassy. They were carrying placards that read, “Stop U.S. Intervention” and “U.S.-Aquino Regime Terrorists.” The group departed after throwing plastic bags filled with paint, which struck and defaced the Embassy seal at the Consulate entrance.

February 1 – Ankara, Turkey: At 1:14 p.m., an individual entered the U.S. Embassy access pavilion. When questioned by a member of the Embassy’s Local Guard Force, he detonated a bomb concealed in his clothing. The explosion killed the bomber and the guard, a 22-year veteran of the Embassy’s Local Guard Force.

(See our blog posts on Mustafa Akarsu here.)

March 11 – Kabul, Afghanistan: Two Embassy helicopters received small-arms fire. Both aircraft returned safely to their airbases with no one injured and minimal damage.

March 21 – Baghdad, Iraq: Three rockets were fired at the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center, producing no injuries and minimal property damage. The alarm systems activated, warning personnel of the attack and allowing them to take cover.

April 6 – Qalat City, Zabul Province, Afghanistan: Two bombs exploded near a Provincial Reconstruction Team delivering children’s books to a  school. A U.S. Embassy officer, a U.S.-contracted interpreter, and three U.S. military personnel were killed. Four State Department personnel, eight members of the U.S. military, and four Afghan civilians were wounded.

(See our blog posts on the Qalat, Zabul attack here).

April 10 – Baghdad, Iraq: Five rockets impacted outside the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center. Damage was minimal and an American worker was slightly injured while attempting to seek cover. The alarm systems activated, warning personnel of the attack and allowing them to take cover.

June 10 – Kabul, AfghanistanAt 4:45 a.m., Taliban insurgents equipped with small arms and rocket-propelled grenades attacked the Coalition Forces compound located at Kabul Airport. Multiple rocket-propelled grenades impacted on Camp Alvarado, a U.S. Embassy facility.

June 25 – Kabul, Afghanistan: At 6:35 a.m., eight insurgents launched an attack on the U.S. Embassy Annex. Afghan security forces and Local Guard Force personnel engaged the militants in a firefight. All eight insurgents were killed along with seven members of the Afghan security forces. Seven other Afghan security personnel were injured.

June 27 – Pristina, Kosovo: The U.S. Ambassador, an Embassy political officer and the DS Regional Security Officer went to the Kosovo Assembly to observe ratification of the April 19 Dialogue agreement to normalize relations between Kosovo and Serbia. As they proceeded to the building, protesters pushed the Ambassador into a wall and struck the Regional Security Officer.

July 3 – Basrah, Iraq: Two bombs detonated at the Mnawi Hotel, causing extensive damage to a USAID office located in the building.

July 14 – Istanbul, Turkey: At approximately 7:15 p.m., while driving to an official event, the motorcade of the U.S. Consul General encountered a crowd of 30 people wearing masks and armed with sticks and heavy paving stones. While escaping, the vehicle sustained damage from several rock-throwing protesters.

July 21 – Lahore, Pakistan: At 3:05 p.m., 400 individuals claiming to be members from Imamia Students Organization and Majlis Wahdat-ul-Muslimeen marched to the entrance of the U.S. Consulate General’s primary access road. A number of individuals used spray paint to write anti-American slogans on the Consulate’s wall.

September 6 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Approximately 15 to 20 protesters chanted anti-American rhetoric in front of the U.S. Consulate. At the end of the protest, they threw red paint on the street and bollards of the Consulate.

September 13 – Herat, Afghanistan:   The September 13, 2013, attack began when a truck driver eased up to a barrier at the Consulate’s primary vehicle entry point and without warning, detonated a massive improvised explosive charge.  It was 5:32 a.m. and not quite sunrise at the U.S. Consulate in Herat when a terrorist murder squad appeared suddenly and attempted to blast and shoot its way inside. All but one would die within the next 30 minutes, and the fight would mark the first time in memory that DS defeated a complex assault without help from the host country or other forces.  [E]ight contracted guards who were standing regular duty outside the U.S. Consulate were killed. They were: Jawid Sarwary, Mohammad Ramin Rastin, Ahmad Firooz Azizy, Ghazy Zade Mohammed Zaman, Sayed Sadt, Mohammad Ali Askari, Aref Mohammad Sadiqi, and Ezmari Haidary.  The attack also injured four other guards and several Afghan police officers who were on duty outside the Consulate.

(See  US Consulate Herat Casualties: One Afghan Police, Eight Local Guards Killed)

Photo via State/DS

Photo via State/DS

October 1 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: At approximately 7:40 p.m., members of the Black Bloc anarchist group infiltrated a teachers’ demonstration in the downtown area of Rio de Janeiro, one block from the U.S. Consulate General. Vandals lit a fire near the Consulate waiting area and threw cobblestones at Consulate windows.

October 7 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Protests ended in vandalism after members of the Black Bloc anarchist group again infiltrated a demonstration organized by striking Rio teachers. When the striking teachers dispersed, some 400 masked anarchists confronted the police and then threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at the U.S. Consulate General.

October 13 – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: At approximately 3:30 p.m., two explosions killed two individuals at a residential compound adjacent to the residence of a U.S. Embassy employee. The blast destroyed windows and some of the perimeter wall, but no Americans were injured. The deceased are believed to have been planning attacks against Western targets in Addis Ababa.

October 15 – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: The teachers’ protests saw anarchist groups again engage in widespread vandalism in the city center. Vandals damaged banks and businesses. The exterior of the U.S. Consulate General building was damaged, including broken windows, when passing protesters threw rocks and coconuts at the building.

October 18 – Porto Alegre, Brazil: At approximately 12:30 p.m., a group of university students calling themselves “Marighella” vandalized the U.S. Consular Agency. The vandals/protesters said they wanted the U.S. out of the country and claimed the U.S. President was a “spy” who wanted Brazil’s oil. They also said they were there to “take over.”

December 16 – Brazzaville, Congo: Heavy gunfire rocked the capital as government forces tried to arrest an official at his residence located within one mile of the U.S. Embassy, but his bodyguards resisted. During the firefight a stray bullet shattered a second-floor window of the U.S. Embassy.

December 25 – Kabul, Afghanistan: At 6:42 a.m., unidentified insurgents fired one 107-mm rocket at the U.S. Embassy. The rocket landed on the east side of the Embassy compound, but failed to detonate. An additional rocket was later found at the launch site. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

December 27 – Taji, Iraq: At approximately 9:20 a.m., a U.S. motorcade en route from Balad to Baghdad came under small-arms fire while stopped at a checkpoint on Highway One. The security team leader — a U.S. citizen — was slightly wounded.

 

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Hello Pop Star — USCG Karachi FSO Phillip Assis Performs on Pakistan Idol

– Domani Spero  

Via Buzzfeed

Phillip Assis, the Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate in Karachi performed with the other semifinalists during the Pakistan Idol semifinals last month.  See U.S. Diplomat Becoming Something Of A Celebrity In Pakistan.

 

Prior to joining the Foreign Service, @PhillipAssis spent two years as a Rural Development Agent in Togo with the Peace Corps. Phillip has also worked at the US Energy Association and the World Bank. According to the SAIS Observer, he spent his first tour in the Foreign Service in Guyana, where he met his husband. From there, he was moved to Vatican City and is now the CAO at the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi, Pakistan. His next tour will be back in Washington, DC.

He is trained in piano, sax, flute, and vocals, sung at Capitol Hill jazz clubs for years, and released his first album, “Since I Fell for You” on iTunes in 2006 (The album is under the name Phillip Nelson).

Assis just recorded two music videos with embassy support on property rights and peace. “Aman Ao Mina” (“Love and Peace”) is currently a popular song on the radio and music TV stations in Karachi.

 

Beautiful song and we love the beat!  Click here to view “Aman Ao Mina” or here via Vimeo/US Embassy in Islamabad if the embedded player doesn’t play.

In 2012, we featured FSO Shayna Cram in this blog singing ‘Girl’ in Pakistan (see Reaching Across the Airwaves, FSO Shayna Cram Sings in Pashto:

 

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U.S. Embassy Pakistan to Get ‘Camel Contemplating Needle’ Sculpture at Reduced Price, Let’s Buy Two!

– Domani Spero

 

Joshua White, the deputy director for South Asia at the Stimson Center tweeted this last week:

On March 30, The Skeptical Bureaucrat blogged about it:

The U.S. State Department has purchased for $400,000 a reproduction of that sculpture you see in the photo above, and will display it at the new U.S. Embassy that is now being constructed in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Acquisition of “Camel Contemplating Needle” by John Baldessari. Includes production cost related to the procurement of representational artwork to be displayed at the new US Embassy Islamabad and reproduction rights.

Representational artwork in embassies is intended for cross-cultural understanding through the visual arts, or something like that. So, what does that sculpture say about how the United States sees its relations with Pakistan? Is one of us the camel and the other the needle?

Today, it became a Buzzfeed Exclusive, U.S. Taxpayers To Spend $400,000 For A Camel Sculpture In Pakistan:

A camel staring at the eye of a needle would decorate a new American embassy — in a country where the average income yearly is $1,250.
[...]
Officials explained the decision to purchase the piece of art, titled “Camel Contemplating Needle,” in a four-page document justifying a “sole source” procurement. “This artist’s product is uniquely qualified,” the document explains. “Public art which will be presented in the new embassy should reflect the values of a predominantly Islamist country,” it says. (Like the Bible, the Qur’an uses the metaphor of a camel passing through the eye of a needle.)

To emphasize Baldassari’s fame, the contracting officials pulled a section from Wikipedia. “John Anthony Baldessari (born June 17, 1931) is an American conceptual artist known for his work featuring found photography and appropriated images.”

In a statement, State Department press spokeswoman Christine Foushee said the proposed purchase comes from the department’s “Office of Art in Embassies.” In new construction projects, she said, a small part of the total funds, about 0.5%, is spent on art purchases.

Steven Beyer of Beyer Projects, the art dealer for the project, points out to Buzzfeed that while some Americans may find it frivolous for the government to pay for art, others will find it important. “It depends on what part of the public you are in,” he said. “If you go to the museum and enjoy art and are moved by it, things cost what they cost.”

“Things cost what they cost” would make a nice motto.

In December 2013, The Skeptical Bureaucrat also blogged about the  artwork of Sean Scully that will be displayed at the future new U.S. Embassy in London:

The incomparable State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf displayed some performance art of her own at last Friday’s daily press briefing when she tried to explain why she thinks this purchase is “a good use of our limited resources” (yes, she does):

Okay, on the artwork, we have an Art in Embassies program run through the Office of Art in Embassies which curates permanent and temporary exhibitions for U.S. embassy and consulate facilities. It’s a public-private partnership engaging over 20,000 participants globally, including artists, museums, galleries, universities, and private collectors. For the past five decades, Art in Embassies has played a leading role in U.S. public diplomacy with a focused mission of cross-cultural dialogue and understanding through the visual arts and the artist exchange.

In terms of the London piece, like much of the art purchased by this program, this piece was purchased under the market price after considerable negotiation with both the artist and the gallery. This is an important part of our diplomatic presence overseas. We maintain facilities that serve as the face of the U.S. Government all throughout the world, and where we can promote cross-cultural understanding, and in this case do so for under market value, we think that’s a good use of our limited resources. Yes, we do.

Expect the official response to inquiries on the albino camel with blue eyes contemplating a gigantic needle artwork to take a similar line.

Go ahead, and just write your copy already.

Here’s one that reportedly takes 3 days to clean to bring on the full shine!

Tulips by Jeff Koon U.S. Embassy Beijing, China

Tulips by Jeff Koon
U.S. Embassy Beijing, China Photo via Art in Embassies/FB

 

The Office of Art in Embassies, in the Directorate for Operations, in the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO/OPS/ART) curates, plans, and administers exhibitions of original art for the chief of mission residences overseas. It is also the office which oversees all aspects of the creation of permanent collections for new embassies and consulates through the Capital Security Construction Program. With a focus on cultural diplomacy, these collections feature the artistic heritage of the host country and the United States.

So far, we have not been able to locate a list of the artworks in the State Department’s permanent art collection.

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