US Ambassador to Sweden Matthew Barzun Resigns, Announces New Obama Mission

Today, Ambassador Barzun of the US Embassy in Stockholm announced he is leaving post to take on a new mission as Chair of the National Finance Committee for President Obama’s reelection campaign.  As far as I could tell, no embassy statement has so far been posted about his resignation.  But Ambassador Barzun, who blogs regularly in BlogOm Sweden, posted the following announcement in his blog. Republished in full below:

Blog Om: My New Mission

Two years ago, President Obama asked me to serve in this great and globally connected nation of Sweden because I understood and believed in his vision for America and its role in the world.  All of us at U.S. Embassy Stockholm have worked hard together to carry that out, expressing to Swedes that America doesn’t seek to command respect through power but to earn it through leadership and friendship. In a variety of ways, including this blog, we have sought to connect with citizens throughout Sweden in a direct and personal way.

But now President Obama has asked me to take on a new mission. He is seeking reelection and has asked me to help steer that effort by serving as Chair of his National Finance Committee. I am honored to be asked to serve in this new capacity, and am accepting the president’s call. However, because of the nature of American presidential elections, it means I will have to leave this post all too soon — at the end of May.

The president sent me to Sweden with one word of advice: “Listen.” That’s what I have tried to do. I have been traveling throughout the country since I arrived, listening and learning. From Sweden’s leadership in sustainability and clean energy to its deep sense of international responsibility, as we have seen most recently in Libya, to the sense of balance embedded in the Swedish national character, I have soaked it all up and become forever enriched.

Brooke, our children, and I have lived a Swedish life together here – one that will always be precious in our memories. At the same time, we look forward to continuing the wonderful relationships we’ve forged with the many Swedes we count as friends. As we move on to the next mission, Sweden comes along as part of who we are. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Ambassador Barzun known for his American Road Show, and for flipping American-style pancakes for host country guests in embassy in a box events in Sweden, recently took the road show to Linköping:       

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.
Photos from US Embassy Stockholm/Flickr

Officially In: President Obama’s New "A" Team

“So, Leon Panetta at the Defense Department; David Petraeus at the CIA; Ambassador Crocker and General John Allen in Afghanistan — these are the leaders that I’ve chosen to help guide us through the difficult days ahead.  I will look to them and my entire national security team for their counsel, continuity, and unity of effort that this moment in history demands.  And our people on the frontlines — our brave troops, our outstanding intelligence personnel, our dedicated diplomats — we’ll look to them for the leadership that success requires.”

The transcript of the President’s Remarks is here:

Af/Pak: Excuse me, sirs — with strategeric friends like these, why do we need enemies?

Map included in The United States Lacks Compre...Image via WikipediaYesterday, April 27, the Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Rosenberg broke the story of Pakistan urging Afghanistan to ally itself with Islamabad, and Islamabad’s BFF, Beijing. Just so you know, China has long been considered by Pakistan as its “all weather friend”, except during calamitous floods and earthquakes when the US appears to be its main BFF. Quick excerpts below:

Pakistan is lobbying Afghanistan’s president against building a long-term strategic partnership with the U.S., urging him instead to look to Pakistan—and its Chinese ally—for help in striking a peace deal with the Taliban and rebuilding the economy, Afghan officials say.

The pitch was made at an April 16 meeting in Kabul by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, who bluntly told Afghan President Hamid Karzai that the Americans had failed them both, according to Afghans familiar with the meeting. Mr. Karzai should forget about allowing a long-term U.S. military presence in his country, Mr. Gilani said, according to the Afghans. Pakistan’s bid to cut the U.S. out of Afghanistan’s future is the clearest sign to date that, as the nearly 10-year war’s endgame begins, tensions between Washington and Islamabad threaten to scuttle America’s prospects of ending the conflict on its own terms.

With the bulk of U.S.-led coalition troops slated to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the country’s neighbors, including Pakistan, Iran, India and Russia, are beginning to jockey for influence, positioning themselves for Afghanistan’s post-American era.
Some U.S. officials said they had heard details of the Kabul meeting, and presumed they were informed about Mr. Gilani’s entreaties in part, as one official put it, to “raise Afghanistan’s asking price” in the partnership talks. That asking price could include high levels of U.S. aid after 2014. The U.S. officials sought to play down the significance of the Pakistani proposal. Such overtures were to be expected at the start of any negotiations, they said; the idea of China taking a leading role in Afghanistan was fanciful at best, they noted.
Pakistani officials say they no longer have an incentive to follow the American lead in their own backyard. “Pakistan is sole guarantor of its own interest,” said a senior Pakistani official. “We’re not looking for anyone else to protect us, especially the U.S. If they’re leaving, they’re leaving and they should go.”

Active links added above. Read in full here.

On the same day, eight U.S. trainers and one contractor were killed by an Afghan air force officer.  Below is a statement from DOD: 

Eight International Security Assistance Force service members and an ISAF civilian died today following a shooting incident in Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul, military officials reported.

Marine Corps Col. Dave Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, said ISAF has confirmed that the service members and civilian were Americans. Because next of kin had not yet been notified, he would not provide the service affiliations of the service members who were killed.

The shooter reportedly was an Afghan air force officer who was killed during the incident, Lapan said.

USA Today also reported that the Afghan pilot who killed nine U.S. trainers in Kabul came from the security force that has been more closely screened for insurgent sympathizers than any other force. If this does not spell trouble …

More than nine in 10 members of the Afghan air force had undergone screening for criminal, drug and medical problems as part of program to weed out unfit recruits or Taliban infiltrators.

There are 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and 284,000 Afghan troops and police. President Obama has asked Congress for $12.8 billion to train and equip the Afghan security forces this coming fiscal year.

The attack is not the first of its kind, and it won’t be the last, if we stay in that sand pit.

Then today, the Frontier Post reported that Pakistan rejected as baseless assertions the news that it is ‘lobbying Afghanistan’s president against building a long-term strategic partnership with the U.S’. A denial from the Afghanistan Government should also be forthcoming, unless they want you all to sweat some more …   

Well, of course, that WSJ report must be wrong! It must be ….because wait….don’t we have a rather expensive strategic strategeric partnerships with these lovely folks? 

You know what I think every time I hear the word “partnership”? It reminds me of a marriage of convenience made in hell. You can spin it all you want, at the end of the day, you cannot/cannot buy love, and splitville is just a sigh away. Was there a signed  pre-nup? Yo! Every partnership needs one.  



US Embassy Sweden: Must Stay Next Trip, the Tree Hotel in Harads, Preferably the Nest

Via US Embassy Sweden: Ambassador and Mrs. Barzun visited Luleå April 6-7, 2011 as part of the Embassy’s outreach to cities throughout Sweden. The Ambassador spoke to students at Luleå Tekniska Universitet, met with Mayor Karl Petersen, visited with the organizers of the Luleå Art Biennial, and made a long-term loan of two artworks by native artists from Alaska to highlight the cultural connection between Sweden and the United States through indigenous peoples. Ambassador and Mrs. Barzun also enjoyed the hospitality of one of the region’s newer and most innovative attractions, the Tree Hotel in Harads.

The following is an excerpt from Ambassador Barzun’s blog post in Blog Om: Leaving the Ground to Appreciate Roots | April 13:

We had made a reservation to stay in one, so Sofia took us there, along the way mentioning that our house weighed seven tons. Upon arrival at the treehouse the first thing one notices as this giant thing hangs in the air tethered to trees is, “Wow, these pine trees are tall, but not very thick.” Americans might picture a sequoia—don’t. Instead, start with a thick Christmas tree and double it. Or imagine a thin telephone pole.
In any case, you can imagine the mental estimation and calculation we began behind tight smiles. But Sophia explained that trees grew slowly up here at this cold spot, so they were old and strong – just not very thick. 140 years old. And strong. Each one, she said, could hold 20 tons. Our house was attached to four trees so “only” seven tons were an easy task for them.

The trees move, and so does the house. There is power in movement. And power in roots. Both were on display as the house moved a lot during the night. The house was attached to the trees with collars that could be adjusted so they would never strangle the trees. It seemed like a good lesson for us when we got back to the city and shared not only what we learned at Luleå University of Technology about sustainable engineering in the lab, but also what we learned up in the trees: We are rooted but we can move, and we can adjust to change.

Insider Quote: The Problems of Now, the Knee Jerk Variety Response

Having been assigned to high threat posts and deployments for over eight years, I have seen the strengths and weaknesses inherent with using contractors versus agents. However, as in the case of Iraq, I have also seen the problems with using agents/contractors versus military protection details. Mismanagment and a lack of clear goals, coupled with the fact that the short length of the tour, inhibits any institutional knowledge from being generated. I would also point out that I feel many of DS’s reactions and “solutions” to the problems have been short sighted and of a “knee jerk” variety. Often, it would seem that DS is reactionary in their thinking versus being proactive. It would appear that the problems of “now” are receieving the majority of the Department’s attention, when some time and planning should be focused on what issues are going to be faced in the future. Many of the individuals making the decisions are from a generation that never faced situations like those that are currently threatening our missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sadly, I think that the situation will get worse before it gets better. The nature of protection details are primarily reactionary but the planning that goes into managing these programs needs to be forward thinking.

Diplomatic Security Agent #9

Should the U.S. Department of State Continue to Use Private Security Contractors to Protect U.S. Diplomats?
June 2008 │140 pages PDF
By Special Agent Derek Dela-Cruz
(Master of Military Art and Science, Fort Leavenworth, KS)

U.S. Ambassador to India Tim Roemer Announces Resignation

The following press release is from US Mission India dated April 28, 2011. We have inserted a slideshow of Ambassador Roemer celebrating Holi in New Delhi:

NEW DELHI — U.S. Ambassador to India Timothy J. Roemer today announced his resignation from the post of Ambassador to the Republic of India, to be effective at the pleasure of the President.  Ambassador Roemer is expected to leave India in June.

Ambassador Roemer’s departure is for personal, professional, and family considerations. “When I accepted this job two years ago, I told President Obama that I would serve for two years but that family considerations would be front and center after that,” said Ambassador Roemer.  The Ambassador noted that he has two sons who will be leaving for college in the next 14 months and he would like his parents and in-laws to be able to spend more time with his children.  He also stated that he had accomplished all of the strategic objectives set forth two years ago.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.
Photos from US Embassy India/Flickr

Ambassador Roemer said:  “For me and for my entire family, the past two years have been a time of incredible experiences, warm friendships, and meaningful partnerships.  The U.S.-India relationship — what my friend President Obama calls the defining partnership of the 21st century – has progressed to the global stage.  I am very proud to have led the team responsible for deepening and broadening the strategic partnership of this critical bilateral relationship, which is one of the cornerstones of our foreign policy. 

The U.S. India relationship is on a positive historic trajectory towards a global partnership that is changing the way our two nations create economic opportunity for our citizens, educating the leaders of tomorrow, and ensuring safe and secure communities.  The horizons of our relationship truly know no limits. 

The relationship has been further strengthened by the landmark 2009 visit and White House dinner honoring PM Singh to the history making trip by President Obama to India in 2010. President Obama committed America’s support to India for a permanent UN Security Council seat and removed nine Indian companies from the entities list.  We have entered into a strategic dialogue on Afghanistan and a new joint economic partnership for capacity building.

I am proud to have worked with the Government of India to sign the Counterterrorism Cooperation Initiative providing groundbreaking joint US-India work on mega-city policing, forensic lab training, intelligence sharing, and sharing best government-wide practices.

During my tenure as Ambassador, the U.S. – India defense partnership has expanded exponentially.  The sale of C130J aircraft and the pending sale of C-17s strengthen the strategic partnership between our two countries, and demonstrates our enduring commitment to sharing the world’s best technology with India.  Our defense partnership offers economic benefits for both India and the United States and significant job creation in both countries. 

Our joint commitment to conserve and protect the resources of the planet as global partners is evident in our joint efforts to identify and highlight practical, affordable green technologies.  In years to come, U.S. and Indian scientists will work collaboratively in new ways to address water security, weather predictions, renewable energy, and climate change challenges because of partnerships created during the Obama Administration.  The Obama-Singh 21st Century Knowledge Initiative provides more opportunities for faculty exchanges, academic staff development, and university partnerships.

Ultimately, the people-to-people ties are the backbone of our partnership.  As Ambassador, I had the chance to travel with my family to all corners of this incredible and beautiful country.  Whether I was playing basketball with Muslim girls in Lucknow, seeing the majestic tiger in Ranthambore, or observing the “aarti” on the banks of the mighty Ganga in Varanasi, I personally viewed how common values and common interests bind our two great democracies together more strongly every day.

As Gandhiji said, ‘a nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.’  India has opened the doors of its schools, communities, and hearts to my family.  We will leave with full and grateful hearts for the many wonderful people who have welcomed us.  We came here as diplomats and we leave feeling part of a family.”

Officially In, Tomorrow: Panetta to DOD, Petreaus to CIA, Crocker and Allen to Kabul

Sen. Jack Reed makes a point during a briefing...Image via WikipediaSo — the WH conducted a background briefing by conference call today on the personnel changes that had the beltway buzzing.  Here are some excerpts:

Tomorrow the President will announce four important appointments of the national security team.

  • First he’ll announce that Leon Panetta, currently the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, will be nominated as Secretary of Defense to succeed Secretary Gates. 
  • Second, he will announce his intention to nominate General Dave Petraeus as the next director of the Central Intelligence Agency. 
  • Third, he’ll announce his intention to nominate Ryan Crocker as the United States next ambassador to Afghanistan. 
  • And fourth, he’ll announce his intention to nominate General John Allen, currently the Deputy Commander for CENTCOM, as General Petraeus’ successor as commander for ISAF and commander for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

On Ambassador Eikenberry moving on, and nothing to do with President Karzai:

Karl Eikenberry, ambassador to Kabul, his appointment or tour was coming to an end after two years this spring, and we needed to make a change there.” 

On this new team:

“And if you work through this — and we can go through each of the positions — you have in Ryan Crocker, one of the nation’s most experienced and well-respected diplomats; in General Dave Petraeus, obviously, one of the nation’s preeminent military leaders; Leon Panetta, a deeply experienced public servant; and John Allen, really one of the great leaders of his generation in the military.”

They’re great, they’re great — I don’t doubt it. But I want to know how they will wrap up this war and bring the troops home already. 

Some excerpts from the Q&A following the briefing:

General Petreaus will retire from the military:

“With respect to your question about whether or not General Petraeus would serve in uniform as director of the Central Intelligence Agency, the answer is that he would not, and that he would retire from the military to take on the position of director of Central Intelligence Agency.”

Ambassador Crocker offered the position on March 30:

I think it is important to point out, though, in response to your question and underscore Ambassador Crocker’s experience on civilian and military political affairs, where he is really, as you know, really one of our most experienced diplomats in that area.  Ryan has 37 years in the foreign service — I’m looking at the list here — five ambassadorships:  Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait, Lebanon.  In Iraq, as you know, he worked very closely with General Petraeus; was instrumental in reconciliation efforts, which is an important priority for the United States in the next period of time here in Afghanistan.

Another important fact which I should have mentioned at the outset — I’ll give you two other facts here, Peter, on this — is that in January 2002, Ambassador Crocker was sent to Afghanistan to reopen the American embassy in Kabul.  And indeed, we received agrement from the government of Afghanistan this morning in a conversation between President Karzai, who obviously knew him then, and the United States representative talking to him today.

The last thing I will say is, again, this is the result of a multi-month process, consultation with Secretary Clinton.  And the President met with Ambassador Crocker and offered him this position on March 30.

Eikenberry, Crocker and oh, the Afghan President

Q    Hi there.  It’s been no secret that the relationship between Ambassador Eikenberry and President Karzai has been a difficult one.  Do you think that while you’re hoping that given his wide range of experience, Ambassador Crocker will be able to improve that relationship between the Afghan President and the top U.S. representative, or are the differences that we’ve seen more a function of a different view of the conflict between the governments, rather than just personality?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes, thank you.  Let me say a couple of things about that.  The first is that Ambassador Eikenberry has served nearly five years in Afghanistan on three tours, two as a military officer and one as U.S. ambassador.  And during his time as ambassador and in large part working with General Petraeus at the direction of the President in a conflict where the United States had a real shortage of resources and, frankly, a lack of strategy, he has worked as an integral member of this team to put in place the inputs and to develop a strategy for moving ahead.  And it’s resulted, in our judgment — in quite a bit of progress.

And we would expect, as I said earlier, Ambassador Crocker — who is one of the most experienced diplomats we have and, in particular, one of the most experienced diplomats we have in terms of civilian-military political operations — to take up that task; to continue the work with the military moving towards transition; to support the work led by the Afghan government — and working very closely, by the way, with our Special Representative, Marc Grossman, on the efforts toward reconciliation and moving the peace process forward; and obviously working very closely with the military as the military draws down its resources.

So I guess I would answer it this way, that the President has nominated a person with a deep experience in the region, tremendous experience and success with political-military efforts.  So I guess I’d answer your question by pointing out the quality and qualities of Ryan Crocker as an ambassadorial nominee.

To read this awesome and exciting development, click here. Formal announcement, tomorrow.

So, then if the Iraq dream team is reunited in Kabul, it will only be for a brief duration. This time around it’ll be Crocker-Allen until the next shuffle. 


WH to US Ambassador to Malta: Don’t Expect Leader of the Free World to Stop Everything to Rescue You From Bad Guys

U.S. Department of State Official Photograph o...Image via Wikipedia“You cannot realistically expect the leader of the free world to stop everything to rescue you from bad guys.”

That’s what one close White House adviser reportedly said according to the outgoing US Ambassador to Malta, Douglas Kmiec in a farewell letter to his Maltese friends published in the Times of Malta on April 24.

It looks like the “bad guys” are the bureaucrats at the State Department, and not just the scorpions at the Office of the Inspector General who were alleged to have engaged in a “sting-back” in their critical report for a legal opinion from the 1980’s. Oh, dear.

I have posted here previously about the resignation of the Ambassador Kmiec following a report from the Inspector General’s Office of the State Department released in early April.

While this is certainly not the first high profile resignation we have seen this year, this is the first time that we’ve seen a departing ambassador engage the press on his defense following his very public resignation.

From media accounts, it looks like Ambassador Kmiec was waiting for a response directly from the White House but did not get one.

“Presumably, if the President, unlike the Inspector General, was happy with my work he could easily affirm with a letter, phone call, or even a brief mention in a speech,” Prof. Kmiec said, adding, however, that he had only heard from the State Department so far.

In a telephonic interview with TPM Muckraker, Ambassador Kmiec complains about not being able to speak directly to President Obama:

 “What is really heartbreaking is not to be able to speak to the President about this, about the distortion — intentional or unintentional, clumsy or politically motivated somehow — by the Inspector General,” Kmiec told TPM. “I love this work so much, and was so honored to be doing this for the country and for this President in particular.”

“The thing that is so saddening to end this way, is that I haven’t lost any of my enthusiasm for the President’s ability to lead the country. I have seen it applauded and greatly appreciated here and in international settings,” Kmiec said.

“I mean if I could get Barack Obama to fly into the Malta airport for 30 seconds, I think I’d be canonized. The man is extremely respected, and I think everything we’ve done has just magnified that respect, and in an honest way,” Kmiec said.     

Ambassador Kmeic also took some issues with unnamed State Dept officials and their runaway red pens:

One particularly offensive overreach, says Kmiec, was when State Department officials edited an article Kmiec wrote memorializing his father in a way that changed his father’s views.

“I thought it was highly offensive to have my father’s memorial piece edited by the Department of State, and indeed what was edited out was reference to his faith and mine and also there was some substantive disagreement with views my father held, so they changed them,” Kmiec said. “So there was a certain aggravation there.”     
He also wrote a piece for the L.A. Times for what would have been Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday that the State Department rejected because it wasn’t related to his mission.

But in his farewell letter to his Maltese friends, he also writes that the “The soulless, secular censorship of a few is not representative of the many.” 

Imagine if he had a blog.

A double standards in ambassadorial resignations?

Ambassador Kmeic wanted to leave post in mid-August and had apparently been told he should leave by the end of May.  The Times of Malta helpfully points out the US Ambasador to China Jon Huntsman who resigned in February was allowed to stay for three months. Ambassador Huntsman’s resignation was reported by NYT in late January with April 30 as its effectivity date.  Excerpts from the Times of Malta:

Outgoing US Ambassador Douglas Kmiec has been asked to leave his post in Malta two-and-a-half months earlier than he had planned, and will therefore miss the July opening of the new embassy.

Prof. Kmiec resigned last week after being chastised by the US State Department for focusing too much energy on his religious beliefs. In a letter, he invited President Barack Obama to visit Malta and reaffirm his credentials, hinting that his resignation should not be accepted.

However, the State Department said his resignation had been accepted and asked him to leave on May 31 rather than August 15 – the date he had proposed to coincide with the Feast of the Assumption.

Prof. Kmiec, who writes an article in today’s paper complaining on “soulless secular censorship”, told The Sunday Times that the State Department felt it was “usual” for him to have a shorter notice period.

However, the current US ambassador to China, who resigned in February, reportedly to prepare a Republican presidential bid, was allowed to stay on for three months.

Such double standards could indicate there is more than meets the eye behind Prof. Kmiec’s departure

And the ambassador seems sore and feeling rather under appreciated:

He also pointed out that those who took considerable personal risks in backing Mr Obama seemed not to be given reciprocal support when needed.

“But political friendships, of course, are not generally personal ones. One wag once said: ‘If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog’.”
“Even a dog knows the difference between being tripped over and being kicked.” I do too.

The country’s Foreign Minister Tonio Borg has now waded into the resignation, expressing disappointment and surprise that the Ambassador is stepping down.

“He was and still is a good Ambassador who has served his country well, while winning the hearts of many,” Dr Borg said.

“Far from hindering the carrying out of his duties, his faith actually made him stronger and helped him gain respect and admiration.”

But a John Guillaumier of St Julians writes rather aptly:

If the next US Ambassador to Malta is a Muslim, it would be undiplomatic of him to use his post as ambassador to promote Islam, just as it was wrong for Prof. Kmiec to use his post as ambassador to promote his personal religious values.

Well, that is a mighty good point, don’t you think?

Then, of course, one must ask — who remembers that 1989 memo, by the way? Are we to believe that the OIG has been waiting all this time to seek vengeance for an opinion written in the last century? That’s like attributing artificial emotional intelligence to a bureaucracy …. I’m sure we have yet to invent a bureaucracy that’s as smart as that.   

There are a couple of things that may be lost in this minor controversy. The fact that all Foreign Service folks must agree to publicly support the policies of the US Government even if they personally disagree with them. That basically means, the policy of the administration of the day whether it is a Republican or Democratic administration.  The second and no less important is the fact that FS professional cannot have a personal opinion on official matters. By virtue of their positions as representatives of the U.S. Government (and the higher the ranks, the more it matters), they can only talk about the official positions of the government they represent, not their own personal opinions. 

Remember that Political Counselor cornered by an important local contact? Contact says, “Just between us, what is really your opinion on XYZ? Without batting an eyelash, the Pol Counselor replies, “But I don’t have a personal opinion, it is however, my government’s opinion that XYZ should XYZ.”

If they can’t do that, they can disagree in a dissent cable (all internal at State, not for publication). Or they quit.
Political appointees ought to know this like the back of their hands before they agree to their appointments.  When they take the short cut to join the diplomatic service and represent the United States of America, even they, must follow the rules, and there are tons of them.  And this includes, I’m almost sure of this — the landline and virtual connections that hook them directly to the mother ship with its corresponding multiple hierarchies.  And the mother ship, like it or not, is in Foggy Bottom, not the White House, even in the latter is the appointing authority. 

Jailhouse Confidential: Hamsters on a Wheel in a Cage Called Afghanistan

Ruins of old Kandahar Citadel that was destroy...Image via WikipediaMujahideen dug that darn tunnel for 5 months, no one noticed

The escapees numbering a total of 540 individuals left prison, no one noticed.

The daring escape lasted for 4.5 hours, no one noticed

And oops, the guards did not notice their prisoners were gone until four hours after the prison break concluded, which would be at 7:30 am if you listen to the Taliban crowing about the escape.  

I take it we trained these bozos, and we probably built that jailhouse, too. How many Taliban fighters who killed our soldiers were in that prison? How many from these escapees will now go back fighting and killing some more of our soldiers?      

Via Al Jazeera:

Some 540 members of the Taliban including military commanders have escaped from Kandahar prison via a 320 metre-long tunnel, Afghan government officials have confirmed to Al Jazeera.

A Taliban official on Monday also confirmed the overnight escape, boasting that the prison break had been “very well-planned” and that it was five months in the making, Al Jazeera’s Qais Azimy, reporting from Kabul, said.

According to a Taliban statement the tunnel was not dug by the inmates but by fighters outside the prison.

“Mujahideen started digging a 320 metre-long to the prison from the south side, which was completed after a five-month period, bypassing check posts and the Kandahar-Herat main highway leading directly to the political prison,” the statement read.

“The tunnel reached its target last night, from where the prisoner Mujahideen were led away through the escape route by three previously informed inmates in a period of four-and-a-half hours, starting from 11pm last night and ending at 3:30am this morning. Mujahideen later on sent vehicles to the inmates who were led away to secure destinations.”

“They all have made it safe to our centres and there was no fighting,” Yousuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said.

Ahmadi said that 106 were Taliban commanders while the rest were foot soldiers. Kandahar police said they had re-captured eight commanders so far.

The Taliban claim that the prison guards did not notice the escape until four hours after the operation was completed.

The prison in southern Afghanistan typically holds drug dealers as well as Taliban fighters captured by NATO forces, our correspondent said.

Read the whole thing here; try not to tear out your hair. 

Reports say 65 prisoners have been re-arrested. Phooey! Give them 5 more months and they’ll be off again in another escapade from jail. And we’ll be tearing out our hair again! Enough already!   

I feel like we’re hamsters on a wheel in a cage called Afghanistan.  We can no longer afford this experiment. It’s time to go home. Let’s declare victory and go home, dammit! AQ is next door, didn’t you know that?  And sometimes walking away is a sign of strength not weakness, despite taunts from UBL’s minions. We need to wrap this up.  Not after the US treasury is bankrupt with these forever wars but soon, before China becomes our landlord. 

Oh, gosh! I’m now officially suffering from Afghanistan-Sucks Syndrome or ASS for short… but our pre-kinder kids can really use some of that down the drain money in their classrooms now if we want them to be competitive in the world of the future tomorrow. No kidding about it.        

In Diplopundit’s Mailbox: Proper Attire for CODELs?

“Will someone please tell CODELs to wear proper business attire in Kabul and Baghdad? Since when is it appropriate to wear casual Friday attire to an Ambassador’s residence or to a meeting with a President?  If in doubt, take a look around, the Embassy staff are wearing suits!”

Photo from US Embassy Kabul
Sigh! Didn’t you know that the congressional protocol person was fired in last budget crisis  and has yet to be rehired when money is appropriated after Easter? As to that casual Friday attire — what can I say? At least his socks match his khaki pants … and he’s not wearing his dark colored shades inside the palace …