Officially In: Kenneth J. Fairfax to Astana

Astana in KazakhstanImage via WikipediaOn March 29, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Kenneth J. Fairfax to be Ambassador to the Republic of Kazakhstan. The WH released the following brief bio:

Kenneth Fairfax is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and currently serves as the Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs at the American Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.   Prior to this assignment, Mr. Fairfax served as Principal Officer and Consul General at the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, a position he has also held at the U.S. Consulate General in Krakow.  Prior to that, he served as Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.  His other overseas assignments include Vancouver, British Columbia, Seoul and Pusan, Korea.  He began his Foreign Service career in 1987 as an Economics and Commercial Officer at Embassy Muscat. Mr. Fairfax has also served as the Director for both Nuclear Materials Security and Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia Affairs at the National Security Council. 

Prior to joining the State Department, Mr. Fairfax worked as an economic consultant and in the computer industry in the San Francisco Bay Area.  He holds a B.A. with High Honors from Oberlin College.  

Related item:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, 3/29/11


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Officially In: Henry S. Ensher to Algiers

View, Algeri, AlgeriaImage via WikipediaOn March 29, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Henry S. Ensher to be Ambassador to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria. The WH released the following brief bio:


Henry S. Ensher most recently served as the United States Senior Civilian Representative in southern Afghanistan.  Immediately prior to that assignment, he was Director of the Office of Afghanistan Affairs in the Department of State.  Mr. Ensher joined the Foreign Service in 1983 and his overseas assignments include Hermosillo, Jeddah, Muscat, Damascus, Vienna, Algiers, Tel Aviv and Baghdad.  He also directed political affairs for Iraq within the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs in 2006. 

Mr. Ensher received his B.A. from Loyola Marymount University.    

Related item:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts, 3/29/11


 

 


Officially In: Lewis Lukens to Dakar

senegal mapImage via WikipediaOn March 11, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Lewis Lukens to be Ambassador to the Republic of Senegal and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau. The WH released the following brief bio:

Lewis A. Lukens is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service.  He currently serves as Executive Director of the State Department’s Executive Secretariat.  Prior to this assignment he served as Consul General in Vancouver, BC, from 2005 to 2008, and as Executive Secretary at the US Embassy in Baghdad from 2004 to 2005.  His other overseas assignments include Dublin, Sydney, Abidjan, and Guangzhou.  In Washington, he worked twice previously in the State Department’s Executive Secretariat; as Special Assistant to the Director General of the Foreign Service; and as Senior Director for Administration at the National Security Council in the White House. 

He received his A.B. in History and Masters in Public Policy, both from Princeton University.

Related item:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts


Officially In: Paul Wohlers to Skopje

Stone Bridge in Skopje, MacedoniaImage by Optic Optimacy via FlickrOn March 11, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Paul Wohlers to be Ambassador to the Republic of Macedonia. The WH released the following brief bio:

Paul Wohlers is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service and currently serves as Deputy Executive Secretary at the U.S. Department of State.  Mr. Wohlers previously served as Director of the Office of Caucasus Affairs and Regional Conflicts in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, Deputy Chief of Mission and Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Skopje, Deputy Director of the Executive Secretariat Staff, and Senior Watch Officer in the Operations Center.  Earlier in his career, Mr. Wohlers held diplomatic postings at U.S. embassies in Bucharest, Moscow, and Nicosia.  In Washington, Mr. Wohlers worked on arms control issues in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and was Desk Officer for Bangladesh in the Bureau of South Asian Affairs.  He also served on the Executive Secretariat Staff.  He also served as a Naval Flight Officer.

Mr. Wohlers is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and earned a J.D. from the University of Washington.

Related item:
President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts


SFRC Hearing: Suzan D. Johnson Cook

This was from last week at the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations:

Presiding: Senator Barbara Boxer
Date: Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Time: 02:30 PM
Location: 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Nominee:
Suzan D. Johnson Cook, of New York
      to be Ambassador at Large for International Religious
      Freedom

The video of the hearing and the written testimony of the nominee are available here.


US Embassy #Syria Now on Authorized Voluntary Departure for Family Members

The State Department issued a new Travel Warning dated April 3 urging U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Syria at this time.  It also announced the authorized voluntary departure of all eligible family members of U.S. government employees from the country:

The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the potential for ongoing political and civil unrest in Syria.  We urge U.S. citizens to defer non-essential travel to Syria at this time.  The Department of State has authorized the voluntary departure of all eligible family members of U.S. government employees.  U.S. citizens in Syria should closely examine their security situation in light of this and other recent developments and consider departing Syria.  This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Syria issued on April 1, 2011, to inform U.S. citizens of the authorization of voluntary departure for eligible family members of U.S. government employees.

U.S. citizens currently in Syria are advised against all travel to the coastal city of Lattakia as well as the southern city of Dera’a and the surrounding towns and villages.  Demonstrations in those areas have been violently suppressed by Syrian security forces and there are reports of curtailed telecommunications, ongoing disturbances and live gunfire in various neighborhoods in the region.

Demonstrations in other major population centers, including Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and Hama, have degenerated on several occasions into violent clashes between security forces and protesters, resulting in deaths, injuries, and property damage.  We remind U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.

U.S. citizens are urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations.  Demonstrations have regularly taken place on Fridays following afternoon or evening prayers.  Areas where people congregate after Friday prayers should be avoided.

Syrian government constraints on observers have made it difficult to adequately assess current risks or the potential for continuing violence.

Syrian efforts to attribute the current civil unrest to external influences may lead to an increase in anti-foreigner sentiment.  Detained U.S. citizens may find themselves subject to allegations of incitement or espionage.  Contrary to the terms of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, of which Syria is a signatory, Syrian authorities generally do not notify the U.S. Embassy of the arrest of a U.S. citizen until days or weeks after the arrest.  Moreover, in the past, security officials have not responded to Embassy requests for consular access, especially in the case of persons detained for “security” reasons.  

Read the whole thing here.

The March 2010 OIG report on the US Embassy in Damascus indicates that post has a staff of approximately 260 which includes 49 direct-hire American employees, 6 EFMs and 205 LE staff.

The report put the resident American population in Syria, at about 9,000 which it said is “small but assisting these citizens can be labor- and time-intensive.” The report note that “Although Syria is a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the Embassy learns of arrests only when friends or family members call, not from the government. Moreover, upon learning of these arrests, the consular section must submit multiple requests before gaining consular access to prisoners.”

Also this:  “Embassy Damascus is a two-year assignment, with two rest and recuperation trips. American staff members currently receive a 20 percent post differential, and at the time of this inspection the Embassy had just submitted its required hardship differential questionnaire summary report. There is no danger pay, although many embassy personnel feel that security conditions and prior incidents of terrorism warrant this allowance. In 2009, embassy management made a strong but unsuccessful case for danger pay, including a presentation before representatives of the Office of Allowances.”

As of March 27, 2011, the US Embassy in Damascus receives a 20% “hardship differential” while all other places in Syria are at 25% hardship. No danger pay allowance is paid for embassy personnel serving in Syria.  

I don’t know how many dependents are actually in Damascus that could be affected by this voluntary evac order. The OIG report from last year did mention that the Syrian Government caused the closure of the international school there, which resulted in the curtailment of embassy officials with school-age children at that time. As that school has not reopened, I am speculating that post only has adult EFMs and no school-age dependents (unless kids are homeschooled).