Quickie: Tent Problems with Team USA in Kabul?

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Mark Perry, a military and foreign policy analyst whose most recent book is
Partners in Command, George Marshall and Dwight Eisenhower in War and Peace has an interesting article in the December 10 issue of Asia Times (The day the general made a misstep).

Some quite meaty blind quotes if you ask me, not just from the State Department but also from the Pentagon, er make that from the 3Ds. But if there’s smoke, there’s fire. So the fact that these relationship and personality problems are leaking out means that whatever other larger problems we have in Afghanistan, our first problem appears to be with the Team USA tent we have pitched in Kabul.

Quote 1: A US Development officer says:

“They absolutely flooded the zone.” […]”There must have been hundreds of them. They were in every province, every village, talking to everyone. There were 10 of them for every one of us.”

Quote 2: A senior State Department official says with a tinge of bitterness:

“What a shock. If you deploy a gang squad, they’re going to find a gang.” […] “They were looking for an insurgency and they found one.”

Quote 3: From an Eikenberry colleague:

“McChrystal came in and he just thought he was some kind of Roman proconsul, a [Douglas] MacArthur.” […] “He was going to run the whole thing. He didn’t need to consult with the State Department or civilians, let alone the ambassador. This was not only the military’s show, it was his show.”

Quote 4: A senior Pentagon official:

The PACC is “a stovepipe operation” [….]. “It’s beautiful. It’s headed up by McChrystal acolytes, former special operations officers who view him [McChrystal] as their patron. So they follow his lead. And there is no requirement for them to share any of the information they get from Kabul with the State Department or anyone else – let alone with Eikenberry. This is McChrystal’s game. The PACC people in Washington pass information to McChrystal without going through any channels and they take the best information from Kabul and they brief [JCS chairman Admiral Mike] Mullen – and he briefs the president. So during the run-up to the Afghanistan decision, the military always looked current. They had the best information. Everyone else looked like a bunch of amateurs. Eikenberry was out of the loop. He had no chop [influence] on any of it. They just ran circles around him.”

Quote 5: A senior State Department official in Washington:

“We kept saying ‘we need to open up to the other side, like we did in Iraq with the Anbar insurgency,’ and the military kept saying, ‘well this isn’t Iraq.’ And so we’d answer: ‘fine, so if Afghanistan isn’t Iraq, then why do you keep talking about a surge?’ And we never got an answer.”

Quote 6: One State Department employee says:

“You can only be treated like a bunch of idiots for so long before you get fed up,” […]. “It was PowerPoint after PowerPoint, all filled with this lingo and it all sounded pretty scientific. But it all amounted to the same thing – who do we kill. Well, it won’t work.”

There are at least three individuals in the article who are not wearing paper bags over their heads: James Clad, a former Pentagon deputy assistant secretary of defense for South Asia; Graham Fuller, a former Central Intelligence Agency station chief in Kabul and Andrew Bacevich, the dean of America’s military thinkers.

More in the article. Read the whole thing here.

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Quote: 5th Largest Recipient of USAID Funds

“If it were a state, Helmand alone would be the world’s fifth largest recipient of funds from the U.S. Agency for International Development.”

Gilles Dorronsoro
Visiting Scholar, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Testimony at the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
November 2009

Quickie: Large Broom Needed at the State Dept

Patricia H. Kushlis of WhirledView writes about the need for a large broom to clean up the State Department (A System in Need of a Large Broom: Buyer Beware | December 2, 2009); and that’s putting it mildly:

“A Human Resources Bureau that has been allowed to run amok with little or no outside oversight over the past decade remains a major obstacle. This is most visible at the senior levels where financial and assignments stakes are highest, but the problems have also trickled down the ranks in deleterious and mysterious ways.”

A few items from her post that should perk up your interest, especially if you’re up on the 7th floor or reading this over in Capitol Hill.
Some of her examples:

The bonus pay fiasco: “The performance pay system has for years regularly awarded financial bonuses to Senior Foreign Service officers who are based in Washington (often in HR) to the detriment of other high ranking officers who have served in hardship and danger posts abroad.”

The assignments fiasco: “[P]lum assignments are also regularly handed out to insiders. In a particularly egregious case, a senior FSO sat for eight years in HR — where he pushed people to serve in Iraq — before waltzing off to an ambassadorship in Africa.”

Promotion board corruption: “There are shocking allegations that have come to me about Foreign Service promotion boards being corrupted – and not just at the senior levels.[…] HR keeps no records of key decisions – like promotions.”

Here’s the can of worms at its worst: “[A]t least in one instance, HR announced the results of a reconvened board before the board even met.”

Hiring cronies for career (not political) positions: “On the Civil Service side, senior managers in Human Resources are alleged to have approved position descriptions that permit their cronies to be hired for jobs without them having to go through the normal competitive process.[…] there are charges of nepotism.”


Read her entire post here.

See Patricia’s other posts on this issue:

SFRC Clears USAID and State Dept Nominees

Shah, Warlick, M., Warlick, J., Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, Rowe, Fernandez, Wills, Andrew, Nelson, King, Kennedy, Donahoe, Zeitlin

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee cleared the following nominations yesterday (reported on December 8, 2009 by Mr. Kerry without printed report). These nominations now go to the Senate for a full vote.


Rajiv J. Shah
, of Washington, to be Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, vice Henrietta Holsman Fore, resigned.

Mary Burce Warlick, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Serbia.

James B. Warlick, Jr., of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Bulgaria.

Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Hungary.

Leslie V. Rowe, of Washington, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Mozambique.

Alberto M. Fernandez, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea.

Mary Jo Wills, of the District of Columbia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Mauritius, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Seychelles.

Anne Slaughter Andrew, of Indiana, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Costa Rica.

David Daniel Nelson, of Minnesota, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Oriental Republic of Uruguay.

Betty E. King, of New York, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Office of the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Geneva, with the rank of Ambassador.

Laura E. Kennedy, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, for the rank of Ambassador during her tenure of service as U.S. Representative to the Conference on Disarmament.

Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, of California, for the rank of Ambassador during her tenure of service as the United States Representative to the UN Human Rights Council.

Jide J. Zeitlin, of New York, to be Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations for U.N. Management and Reform, with the rank of Ambassador.

Jide J. Zeitlin, of New York, to be Alternate Representative of the United States of America to the Sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations during his tenure of service as Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations for U.N. Management and Reform.