Tag Archives: Ryan C. Crocker

Blast From the Past: US Embassy Benghazi (June 1967) — “The mob battered its way in”

— By Domani Spero

Almost nine months since the attack, Benghazi continue to make news.  Three days ago, CBS News reported that U.S. officials gave instructions for Benghazi Medical Center to use a “John Doe” pseudonym on the death certificate of Ambassador Christopher Stevens after he died of asphyxiation in the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya. Frankly, we don’t think that was an unreasonable request. Who wants to imagine the body of a deceased ambassador held hostage or used for propaganda or other purposes by the militants who killed him?

We missed this May 17 piece by Christopher Dickey saying, “The CIA misjudged the security threat in Benghazi and contributed mightily to the confusion afterwards. The ass-covering of then-CIA Director David Petraeus, particularly, muddled the question of what could and should be told to the public.” It’s good reading.

To our last count, there’s a subpoena for emails and documents from ten top State Department officials that Congress wants to look at (see House Oversight Committee Subpoenas Benghazi-Related Documents To/From Ten State Dept Officials). There’s also congressional request asking what happened to the four employees “fired” by the State Department last December (see Congress Seeks Details on Status of Four State Dept Employees ‘Fired’ Over Benghazi. Then there’s the appearance by Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Mike Mullen before the Oversight Committee, which to-date does not have a confirmed date.  Oh, and the RNC filed an FOIA for more Benghazi-related emails.

Then Ambassador Ryan Crocker made news when he told the Marine Corps Times that people should come before paper, and why he doesn’t think it makes sense any longer that the primary duty of the Marine Security Guards is protecting classified documents. “I really do think it’s time that the Marine Corps and the State Department re-look at the memorandum of agreement and rules of engagement because that was written effectively in the pre-terror days,” Ambassador Crocker said.

The attack on the temporary mission in Benghazi in 2012 was not a first.  In 1967, we did not have a temporary mission in Benghazi, we actually had an embassy there that was attacked by a mob, and set on fire by the attackers. With our diplomats inside. Below is a first-hand account of what happened that harrowing day.

Via the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST), an excerpt from John Kormann’s entry in the Foreign Affairs Oral History Project:

John Kormann fought in World War II as a paratrooper and went behind enemy lines to apprehend Nazi war criminals and uncover a mass grave.  As an Army Counter Intelligence Corps field office commander in Berlin from 1945 to 47, he helped search for Martin Bormann, Hitler’s private secretary.  He joined the Foreign Service in 1950 and describes his experience as officer-in-charge at Embassy Benghazi, when it was attacked and burned in June 1967. At that time, the Libyan capital rotated every two years between Benghazi and Tripoli. The Ambassador David Newsom was posted in Tripoli and John Kormann was the principal officer and consul in Benghazi.  The Arab-Israeli War was fought on June 5–10, 1967.  John Kormann is also author of his memoirs, Echoes of a Distant Clarion. Below is an excerpt from an interview conducted by Moncrieff J. Spear on February 7, 1996

“The mob battered its way in”

The most harrowing experience of my Foreign Service career occurred in Benghazi at the outbreak of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Convinced by propaganda broadcasts that U.S. Navy planes were attacking Cairo, Libyan mobs, spurred on by 2000 Egyptian workers building a pan- Arab Olympic stadium in Benghazi, attacked the Embassy. The streets were being repaired and there were piles of rocks everywhere, which the mob put to use. A detachment of soldiers provided by the Libyan Government to protect us was overwhelmed. The embassy file room was full of highly classified material, which we desperately tried to burn. The embassy had been a former bank building, with a heavy safe-type front door and barred windows. The mob finally battered its way in. They pushed themselves in through broken windows and came at us cut and bleeding.

We were well armed, but I gave orders that there be no shooting, so we met them with axe handles and rifle butts. Dropping tear gas grenades, we fought our way up the stairs and locked ourselves in the second floor communications vault. We were able to continue burning files in 50-gallon drums on an inner courtyard balcony using Thermite grenades. There were 10 of us in the vault, including two women. The mobs set fire to the building. The heat, smoke and tear gas were intense, which while terrible for us, blessedly forced the mob from the building. We only had five gas masks for 10 people and shared them while we worked. We came out of the vault several times during the day to use fire extinguishers to control blazes and spray down walls.

Our own destruction of files using Thermite sent up huge clouds of black smoke from the center of the building, probably adding to the impression that those of us inside were dying. With no power, we managed to send sporadic messages throughout the day using an emergency generator. Efforts by British troops to come to our aid were called off several times. A British armored car was destroyed by the mob in the vicinity of the Embassy by pouring gasoline down the hatch and setting it afire with an officer and four soldiers inside. The British Embassy and British Council offices had been attacked and set afire, as were the USIS [U.S. Information Service] center and my former residence.

I might mention something here because many people asked me about it afterward. At one point the mob used a ladder to drop from an adjoining building on to our roof, catching us trying to burn files there. After a struggle they drove us back into the Embassy. They cut the ropes on the tall roof flag pole, leaving the flag itself hanging down the front of the building. An Army MAAG [Military Assistance Advisory Group] captain who was with us requested permission to go up on the roof and raise the flag. I dismissed his request, saying it would be counterproductive. Later when things looked very bleak and our spirits were waning, he came to me again in front of the others. I told him I would think about it. I had been a combat paratrooper in WW II and had seen what defiance and a bit of bravura could do for soldiers under mortal stress.

Afterward I said, “Go ahead, raise the flag!” He did so with considerable daring, the mob going crazy below and the rocks flying. The reaction among my people was profound. I could see it in their eyes, as they worked on with grim determination under those conditions to burn files and render cryptographic equipment inoperable.

The British Come to the Rescue

When late in the day (remember the attack began in the morning), we received word that a British rescue attempt had again been postponed for fear that lives might be lost, I took a photograph of President and Mrs. Johnson off the wall, broke it out of the frame and wrote a message on the back to the President saying something to the effect that we have tried our best to do our duty. Everyone signed it. When an inspector subsequently asked me about that, I could tell him that people will respond to the call of duty given the chance.

We sent our last message at about 6:00 p.m. I learned later from a friend who was in the Operations Center in Washington that it came in garbled, leading to the impression that we were burning alive. At that Secretary Rusk called the British Foreign Secretary with a further plea to get us out. At 8:00 p.m. a British armored column arrived and took us by truck to D’Aosta Barracks, their base on the outskirts of town. Libya had been a British protectorate after WW II and they still maintained a small military contingent outside of Benghazi under an agreement with King Idriss. The British were magnificent, rescuing us and then helping us bring hundreds of Americans to their camp, where they fed us and gave us shelter.

The night of our escape from the vault, I asked for a volunteer to go with me into the center of Benghazi at 2:00 a.m. to bring out Americans most in danger. The city was in flames, Jewish and foreign shops and properties having been set to the torch. Driving through the city, we were repeatedly stopped by roadblocks manned by nervous, trigger-happy Libyan soldiers. The streets were full of debris.

I remember pulling up to an apartment house lit only by fires from nearby burning shops. Going up the darkened stairs, knocking on doors, I asked for an American family. On the fourth floor, I heard a small voice say, “Who’s there?” In English, I answered, “It’s the American Consul.” An American woman cautiously opened the door. She must have known me, because she called me by name and said, “We knew you’d come, we are all packed.” What a wonderful tribute, I thought, to our Foreign Service. During that night and the next day we brought out other Americans under very trying circumstances.

Victory Street, Benghazi, Libya (1967)
Photo from ADST

We had problems in evacuating Americans from Benghazi. Arrangements were made for U.S. Air Force planes to pick up about 250 of them at the airport. At the last moment I received word that Russian-built Algerian troop transports with paratroopers and Egyptian MiG fighters had landed at the airport. I didn’t want our planes shot at. I didn’t want a serious incident. Calling Tripoli, I talked with Ambassador Newsom. After listening to me, he said, “Well, John, you’re the man on the spot. This is your decision to make.” I made the decision to bring the planes in all right, but I must say really I wished that I hadn’t had to, for I was truly worried. My wife and children were going to be aboard those planes, as well as a lot of other Americans, who could pay with their lives should my decision be a bad one.

The British provided trucks and a bus for the evacuees. They were taken on to the airport through an opening away from the terminal and driven right past the parked MiGs and Algerian transports. With the connivance of an English civilian air controller in the tower, contact was made with the incoming Air Force planes using a British Army field radio. They were instructed to land on the grass along the fence at the most distant part of the field away from the terminal. Three planes, two C-130′s and a C-124, came in and made a fast turnaround. They were loaded and back in the air in minutes. The operation was carried out with such speed and audacity that there was no reaction from anyone until much later. All of us will be forever grateful to Colonel Alistair Martin and his British troops for their role in all of these actions; without them none of that would have been possible.

Read the full oral history here.

(‘_’)

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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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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

Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker “Dedicates” The Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio – to Whom?

Via El Snarkistani over in It’s Always Sunny in Kabul:

And this took over a year? Don’t they have Macbooks at the Embassy?

So part of Crocker’s legacy at the Embassy, besides being really excited about how much money has been siphoned out of the country due to massive corruption, and making sure that the majority of Department of State staff in this country never left Kabul, is the eponymous TV studio that took over a year to complete.

Now, instead of outsourcing ridiculous television ventures, the Embassy staff can now be inept all on their own.

Oh, El Snarky, so harsh. What is El Snarkistini talking about? This one:

Caption from US Embassy Kabul/FB:
The Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio was dedicated on 24 June with a ribbon cutting at the Embassy by Ambassador Crocker and Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy, Eileen O’Connor. The production studio, which took over one year to complete, will give the Embassy the ability to do live television broadcasts and studio quality videos for the web.

Paging Mr. Universe, you are needed in Kabul A-S-A-P where you can now do live television broadcasts and studio quality videos for the web in Afghanistan, a country where 4.2% of the population are internet users and where more than half never uses television. That teevee number goes up 73% in the rural areas of Afghanistan, by the way.

Whose bright idea was this? Please do tell so we can give appropriate credit!

Okay – so since Ambassador Crocker “dedicated” this ahem, Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio on June 24, to whom did he dedicate this to?  To the best of our memory, even the late Richard Holbrooke who reportedly had his own personal archivist did not go so far as dedicate a building to himself.

Um, pardon me?  You mean why can’t ambassadors name stuff after themselves in a country where money obviously is not/not a problem it’s leaking left and right?

Because. It’s bad form. And it’s muy, muy embarassaurus. I’m writing this post under my desk, you guys!

Oh, yes — wouldn’t that look  like ambassadors are building a temple of their own greatness or something? But pray, what’s wrong with that? If they are in fact, great?

Well, for one thing, it reminds us of Alexander the Great who liked to found cities and name them after himself, in honour of his own achievements. By the way, last year the BBC had this interesting piece about the pitfalls of naming places after famous people. It’s a must read if you’re thinking of renaming things after yourself, too.

And then there’s El Jefe, Rafael Trujillo.  In 1936 the capital city of the Dominican Republic was changed from Santo Domingo to Ciudad Trujillo. The province of San Cristobal was changed to “Trujillo”, and the nation’s highest peak, Pico Duarte, was renamed Pico Trujillo. Heck, this is a broadcast studio, it’s not like they’re naming a mountain after him.

Right you are, but huge problems with bad associations, see?

And it creates a bad precedence.   Seriously.  Are they going to start naming the chanceries and ambassadors’ residences with ambassadors’ names? Or new embassy compounds, or water towers?  Or roads and bridges built with aid money? What?

C’mon Ms. Eileen O’Connor, Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy and US Embassy Kabul folks, youreallydon’tthinkthislooksbad?

The State Department already has a  $10,000 award named after Ambassador Crocker (see Ryan C. Crocker Award for Outstanding Leadership in Expeditionary Diplomacy). I get that.  But I don’t know whose brainchild is the Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio or how much this cost American taxpayers. And this is still a shocker.  Also a production studio need folks to work there, so more 3161 employees are needed. And here I thought we’re shrinking our footprint there by 2014. Oops wait, aren’t we supposed to be there until 2024 to the Karzai’s clan endless delight? While we’re in the business of naming stuff, can we please, please name something big, a bridge, a building, the Parliament, “2014″ as a reminder?  Oh, we can always rename it “2024″ later to celebrate the next phase of this perplexing relationship.

In any case, I fervently hope that the Ryan C. Crocker Expeditionary Production Studio‘s name is carved in stone or the next ambassador might be tempted to re-brand that new shiny thing with his/her name. Of course, who’s going to say “no” if he/she wants to replace the carved stone with a new carved stone with a new name, hmnnn?

Domani Spero

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Filed under Afghanistan, Ambassadors, Huh? News, US Embassy Kabul

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