Just figured out how to do a few things on Twitter. Don’t be misled by the photo. That’s cropped from Lorenzo Lott’s oil on canvas work c.1550 (public domain). I was going to put up Ben Franklin, or my cat’s mug, or a barking owl’s – but in the spirit of a semi-tamed vanity (gods help me), I finally settled on Lott’s.
Matthew Hoh, the US official who resigned in protest over the Afghan war did a Q&A over at the Washington Post. It’s unfortunate that the issues he raised seemed to have been overshadowed by his employment status. But the Q&A is a good start. Why are we in Afghanistan and how long we should be there ought to be part of a broader discussion about this “good war.” You can read the whole thing here.
Washington, D.C.: Could you explain the nature of your employment with the State Department? I understand you were hired to work in Afghanistan on a limited, one-year contract. Are there a lot of people there under similar contracts?
Matthew Hoh: Yes, I was hired as a limited non-career foreign service officer. I was sworn into the foreign service as as foreign service officer for at temporary period of time. The US government “deputizes” people in such manner to make up for shortfalls in manning or to bring in people with specialized experience. Much of the “civilian surge” that you may have read about in Afghanistan consists of temporary government hires. Although it is a contract these positions should not be confused with contractors filling various logistics, security and intelligence positions.
Washington, D.C.: Would a little more thought go into the why of going to war, if the Congress actually had to declare war and that upon a declaration of war, the military draft was reinstated for the duration of said war?
Matthew Hoh: Absolutely. As a former professional military officer I am against the draft because I don’t believe it leads to an effective military. However, as a private citizen I feel that a draft would engage our population in the debate. I don’t believe we would have invaded Iraq if we had a draft and I don’t believe we would still be in Afghanistan if we had a draft.
Philadelphia, Pa.: Do you know of other Foreign Service officers who also don’t think we should be in Afghanistan, but don’t have the guts to resign or even to express their reservations?
Matthew Hoh: Yes.
…in indexes describing Egypt’s democratic environment
I did not know this – but apparently since FY 2004, USAID/Egypt has designed democracy and governance programs valued at $181 million to be conducted until the end of FY 2012. USAID’s OIG just released its audit report on its democracy and governance activities in Egypt.
Excerpt below from the report:
Despite USAID/Egypt awarding more than $181 million for program activities since 2004 and the mission’s acknowledgment of the restrictive political environment in which it conducts programs, the Office of Democracy and Governance has achieved limited results for 13 judgmentally selected awards. Valued at $62.3 million, the programs support rule of law and human rights, good governance, and civil society. Based on the audit results, USAID/Egypt’s Office of Democracy and Governance achieved only 52 percent of its planned results for the 13 awards and successfully completed only 65 percent of its activities during fiscal year (FY) 2008.
Based on the programs reviewed, the impact of USAID/Egypt’s democracy and governance activities was limited in strengthening democracy and governance in Egypt. Furthermore, in separate recently published reports, independent nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) ranked Egypt unfavorably in indexes of media freedom, corruption, civil liberties, political rights, and democracy. Egypt’s ranking in these indexes remained unchanged or declined for the past 2 years. The overall impact of USAID/Egypt’s programs in democracy and governance was unnoticeable in indexes describing the country’s democratic environment.
USAID/Egypt had the authority to take corrective action when an implementer was not achieving its results. But in some instances the mission did not take appropriate action, because the staff was unaware of problems due to weak management controls.
USAID mandatory standard provisions and an acquisition and assistance policy directive establish the legal responsibility for USAID recipients to include antiterrorism clauses in all subawards and comply with a certification regarding terrorist financing. Despite the requirements, four USAID/Egypt implementers did not include mandatory clauses in agreements with subrecipients, and one implementer did not sign the antiterrorism certification. This occurred because technical representatives did not periodically verify the implementers’ antiterrorism measures to ensure that required actions had been taken. As a result, USAID/Egypt has little assurance that its programs do not inadvertently provide material support to entities or individuals associated with terrorism.
Read the whole thing here.
Audit of USAID/Egypt’s Democracy and Governance Activities
OIG/USAID Audit Report No. 6-263-10-001-P | October 27, 2009 | PDF
Image by Omer Wazir via Flickr
Routine consular services will be temporarily suspended from Monday, October 26 through Friday, October 30.
Its latest warden message says that the Embassy will continue to provide emergency services to Americans requiring such assistance. Americans interested in routine services such as passport applications are requested to contact the Embassy on Monday, November 2. Immigrant and non-immigrant visa interviews will be rescheduled.
Earlier yesterday, a separate warden message advised American citizens that the Diplomatic Shuttle into the Diplomatic Enclave would be closed for the day. Due to this, the American Citizens Services unit was also closed except for emergency services (arrests, death or injury, victims of crime, etc.).
Image by The U.S. Army via Flickr
…and the Art of the Benevolent Push Back
Here is the official word from Foggy Bottom on the resignation of Matthew Hoh, the U.S. official who resigned over Afghanistan. The short short seems to be that State admire, respect, and took him seriously – but he’s not one of theirs for the long haul ‘cuz he was not a career member of the Foreign Service. And by the way we’re on track on Afghanistan.
Yes — and as I write this, the news screen flashes that Taliban militants have gone boldly into Kabul, attacked the UN Guest House, killing six employees.
Resignation of Matthew Hoh /Admire Mr. Hoh and Respect Sacrifices Made for His Country / Take His Opinions Seriously / Senior Officials Have Spoken With Him / Respect His Right to Dissent /Had Limited, Non-Career Appointment / Political Officer in PRT in Zabul/Believe We’re on Track to Achieving Goals President Has Set Before Us/No Resignations By Career Foreign Service Officers Over Afghanistan/Allegation of Desecration of Qu’ran Denied by Pentagon
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QUESTION: Can I just – now pick up the question about – the resignation of Matthew Hoh, who was working for the State Department in Afghanistan and has made public a somewhat depressing three-page letter about the reasons for his resignation, and he talks about his loss of understanding and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States presence there.
Is this – how does the State Department view this? Is this an embarrassment of sorts, the fact that it’s become so public? It’s on the front page of the Post today.
MR. KELLY: Well, first of all, we admire Mr. Hoh. We respect the sacrifice that he’s made for his country, both in Iraq and signing up to join our effort in Afghanistan. We take his opinions very seriously. Senior officials on the ground in Afghanistan and here in Washington have talked to him, have heard him out. We respect his right to dissent. This is an old and respected tradition in the Foreign Service, that Foreign Service personnel have the right to express their dissent.
Just to give you a little more background on his affiliation with the State Department, he signed on for a limited appointment. It is a non-career appointment. He signed on March 29th of this year and his employment lasted up until September 28. He submitted his letter of resignation a few weeks before that. He was signed on as a political officer in a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan in Zabul. And his role as a PRT political officer was to monitor and report on political and economic developments in his province.
As I say, we take his point of view very seriously. But we continue to believe that we are on track to achieving the goal that the President has set before us, and that’s – you heard Deputy Secretary Lew lay out some of those objectives: improving Afghan governance; providing security, infrastructure, jobs, basically giving the Afghan people an alternative to the very negative vision of the Taliban and al-Qaida. And this is the strategy, and as I say, we believe we’re on track reaching the goals. Kirit.
QUESTION: Just a couple of things from the article about his meeting with Eikenberry and with Holbrooke. Could you tell us a little more about this, and what happened in those meetings?
MR. KELLY: Well, I think he was upfront with his own chain of command, and had the opportunity to discuss with his immediate boss who is the supervisor of the PRTs. And he also talked to the Deputy Chief of Mission out there, Mr. Frank Ricciardone. And it was very much an open and transparent process. As I say, we value his service, we value his background and his skills. This is why we appointed him to this limited non-career appointment to be a political officer, to be our eyes and ears on the ground in Zabul. In the end, he made his own decision, that he decided to resign, and we respect that.
QUESTION: Do you wish he hadn’t gone public with it?
MR. KELLY: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: Do you wish he had not gone public with that?
MR. KELLY: It’s really his decision. I mean, we don’t – it was a – obviously, a very personal decision, and I think he even told the post that it was a very painful decision. I’m sure it was, but we respect his right to act on his views.
QUESTION: So his tour – his job would have ended on March 29th of 2010?
MR. KELLY: It was a one-year appointment, yeah.
QUESTION: That would have ended on March 29, 2010?
MR. KELLY: It was supposed to end next March, yeah.
QUESTION: And then what would have happened?
MR. KELLY: At that point, he would have – his employment would have been over with the State Department. These appointments can be extended as well. I – there have been some appointments that have been extended up to 18 months, I know.
QUESTION: And the – okay, but then that’s it?
MR. KELLY: And that’s it. Yeah, that’s it.
QUESTION: So there –
MR. KELLY: He signs an agreement that he’ll – that he agrees to stay for a year and then his employment ends.
QUESTION: So that you can’t re-up it at that point.
MR. KELLY: Oh, I said we can extend him, but he has no – it’s a non-career appointment. So he doesn’t have any re-employment rights, per se. Of course, he can compete for other jobs.
QUESTION: Then I’m not – I’m unclear as to how he actually fits into the Foreign Service.
MR. KELLY: It’s – there is a provision of the Foreign Service Act that gives the Secretary the right to designate certain positions as limited with a time certain end date in order to fill positions that have not been filled through the normal Foreign Service process. And so this was one of them. We have, I think a total in the world, about 16 of these type appointments. It’s not – it’s fairly rare.
QUESTION: Is that the same thing as the 3161 or is that different?
MR. KELLY: No, that’s different.
QUESTION: It’s different, right?
MR. KELLY: I don’t know all the ins and outs of 3161. I think that’s more of a Civil – I think that’s for Civil Service appointments.
QUESTION: So this is under Foreign Service, but he is not considered —
MR. KELLY: This is under Foreign Service.
QUESTION: — a Foreign Service officer, he’s not commissioned as a Foreign Service officer?
MR. KELLY: He’s not commissioned as a Foreign Service officer, yeah.
FSO Matthew Hoh Resigns Over Afghan War