Quote: More Catherine Ashton, Please

“I should occupy this job because 27 heads of government invited me to. I may not be your choice, but I am theirs.”

Catherine Ashton

(to British conservative parliamentarian Charles Tannock)
EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy
EU’s new top diplomat denies inexperience at first hearing

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US Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif Moving Forward

The Blue Mosque in Mazar-e Sharif, which is a ...Image via Wikipedia

The US Embassy in Kabul just announced that Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry and the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, signed a new agreement under which the United States would lease an historic 1930’s hotel in Mazar-e-Sharif for use as the new U.S. Consulate. Below is the rest of the press release:

This newly-signed lease extends for 9 years and 11 months, with multiple rights to renew in the future. The United States has agreed to invest approximately $26 million to renovate the facility so that it may be used as an office building and housing for consulate employees.

Mazar-e-Sharif is a dynamic commercial center of northern Afghanistan and a gateway to Central Asia. Our decision to place a consulate in Mazar signifies the U.S. Government’s commitment to Northern Afghanistan and our permanent commitment to relations with Afghanistan. Today’s lease signing is the first step in realizing this commitment to Mazar.

I cannot find a confirmation of this, but it looks like the hotel referred to here is the Mazar Hotel. Here is the undated description of the hotel from Lonely Planet:

This is a hotel in an 1930s style, all high ceilings, grand dining rooms and monolithic pillars. It’s a little dusty, giving the impression that it doesn’t see all that many guests, but the swimming pool is popular with local lads in the summer. En suite rooms are a flat price for single or double occupancy, and have the novelty of a bath as well as shower.

Another description from a traveler who stayed at Mazar in 2007:

We are staying at the Mazar Hotel for $50/night. Our room is really a cavernous suite with a bedroom, living room and bath. Our suite is at the end of one of the hotels two long wings. The ceilings must be 15 ft high. It is a huge place built in the 1930 and it doesn’t look like any of the furnishings or fixtures have been changed in all that time. The electrical wiring is screwed up and the fuses keep blowing and there is no hot water. When Arvid makes the long walk to the office to complain the three men dressed like cadres of the Northern Alliance who had been there when we checked in are gone. We are the only guests in the building. There is a large dining room or rather banquet hall but it is closed indefinitely. This place is really strange … it could be a movie set for one of those European art films where there is no dialogue or plot.

TSB of The Skeptical Bureaucrat confirmed that this is the hotel (see comments below). Click here to see the photos.

Thanksgiving Around the Foreign Service

I wanted to do this last week but did not get around to it (turkey’s fault). Here is a quick round-up of FS folks who marked Thanksgiving last week in their own special way:

US Ambassador to Moscow, John Beyrle posted a brief note on Thanksgiving last week. Check this out if you read Russian.

US Embassy Tokyo DCM, James Zumwalt of the “Z Notes” blog, also wrote about Thanksgiving here.

US Ambssador to Canada, David Jacobson blogged about family and Thanksgiving traditions and had the Marines over for fried turkeys with lots of Cajun spices.

Anne Frej of the Public Affairs Section of U.S. Embassy Kabul blogged in DipNote about celebrating both Thanksgiving and Eid e Qurban, the Muslim days of sacrifice in Kabul.

Josh Glazeroff, the visa chief at U.S. Embassy New Delhi wrote in in the official blog about Thanksgiving in India as also a day of remembrance and how 26/11 will always be remembered as an infamous day in the country for the Mumbai attacks last year.

In Germany, Ambassador Philip Murphy carved the turkey after he gave a speech during the Annual Fulbright Thanksgiving Dinner.

US Embassy Berlin Photo

On Thanksgiving Thursday, a small group of embassy volunteers led by Ambassador Ertharin Cousin (UNFAO) visited an orphanage and served and shared a Thanksgiving meal, complete with the uniquely American cheesecake donated by Eli’s in Chicago, to immigrant families from all over the world. Read more here.

Photo from DipNote Blog

Over at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and wife, Ching, visited U.S. service members and civilians and thank them for their service on Thanksgiving Day.

Photo by U.S. Army Capt. Michael Greenberger

In the Southern Philippines, Ambassador extraordinaire to the Philippines, Kristie Kenney served food to our troops in Mindanao and wrote about her family’s Thanksgiving tradition in her blog:

Photo from Amb Kenney’s Blog

“This year, I traveled from Manila to celebrate Thanksgiving lunch in Zamboanga with temporarily deployed U.S. troops. The makeshift dining hall was festooned with streamers and turkey cut-outs. In accordance with tradition, I served the food to our troops, joined by the most senior U.S. military officer present and visiting U.S. Congressman Bob Filner.” Read her whole post here.

We also have post-Thanksgiving “thank yous” for the following generous souls:

To the ambassadors and deputy ambassadors who we heard had invited single folks and newcomers to their Thanksgiving events this year, thank you. It makes a difference when you did not have to go and “catch-your-own” turkey at a farm or “cook-your-own” turkey in borrowed kitchenware when you just arrived in town.

To the Foreign Service families who opened their homes to Peace Corp volunteers, some of whom have been on forced diet of rice and beans or fried fish for many months, we thank you for your generosity.

To the Consular Section chiefs who made every effort to invite the local staff to their thanksgiving gigs, we appreciate your gestures. Some of these local national employees have worked for the USG for 5-10 years and have never ever been to a thanksgiving dinner. Thank you.