Crocker-Petreaus: Iraq Dream Team to be Re-united in Afghanistan 10.0?

washington, d.c.Image by The U.S. Army via FlickrThe United States has been in Afghanistan since the launch of Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001. As we enter our 10th year of strategic, security and whatever partnership with Bank of Afghanistan R Us, it looks like the official team shake up is now slowly unfolding.  The new Af/Pak envoy recently installed, and now new reports that Ambassador Ryan Crocker will come out of retirement and is slated to return to the US Embassy Kabul. Official announcement not made yet, but you know what DC is like …. worse than a leaky cauldron…      
Both AP and Reuters are reporting that the Obama Administration will soon nominate Ambassador Crocker to succeed Ambassador Eikenberry in Afghanistan.

The National Journal also has the following:   

The Obama administration is preparing to nominate Ryan Crocker to be the next U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, putting one of the nation’s most experienced diplomats in charge of the civilian side of the flagging U.S.-led war effort there, a White House official confirmed.

The move, which could be announced this week, would reunite Crocker with Gen. David Petraeus, the diplomat’s partner in Iraq during the pivotal years where the two men helped bring the country back from the brink of civil war. Petraeus, who describes Crocker as the most capable diplomat he’s ever worked with, has been privately pushing the White House to make the appointment while urging Crocker to come out of retirement to accept it.

Read in full White House to Send Ryan Crocker to Kabul, Recreating Iraq ‘Dream Team’

I don’t know if I should call this leak great timing or a coincidence.  But just a day ago, a new poll indicates that a record 49 percent of Americans now disapprove of President Obama’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan, up 8 points since January. And those who disapprove “strongly” outnumber strong approvers by nearly a 2-1 margin.

According to ABC News this change follows an ABC/Post poll last month in which a new low, 31 percent, said the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting. Sixty-four percent said it is not worth fighting, with 49 percent feeling that way “strongly,” both record highs in ABC/Post polls.

Of course, if the Senate can’t get it together quickly in the nomination of Ambassador Crocker after it’s announced (no reason why it can’t, but stranger things have happened there), and Petreaus gets out of Afghanistan this summer, then it’ll be hard to reunite the dream team.  

Related post:
Ambassador Crocker Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom | Friday, January 16, 2009


Don’t be a passhole, go vote in the AFSA Elections

Ballot bokehImage by iceman9294 via FlickrA passhole is “someone who opts out of participating in a decision, but then complains bitterly about the outcome.”

Don’t be one. Elections have consequences. Go vote in the AFSA elections. 

The ballots were mailed to all constituencies on April 1, 2011. Some important dates to remember.

# June 2, 2011 Ballots counted
# June 6, 2011 Elections Committee declares results
# July 15, 2011 New board takes office

I have written many times previously about the contentious AFSA elections in 2009. I have not always agreed with AFSA, and the previous election had left a sour taste in the mouth of many. That said, I also think that Foreign Service folks would be in a real bad shape without an active, forceful and effective advocate.  

In the aftermath of the 2009 elections, I blogged about the details behind the numbers and found the following:

Active-duty State employees are the largest voting bloc in AFSA at 63.3% of the total membership. In this election, State employees account for 1,459 of the total votes or 43% of the votes counted. However, 1,459 votes out of approximately 8,801 due-paying members amount to only 16.57% of this constituency. In short – only slightly more than 15% of active-duty State AFSA members sent in their votes.

Retirees are the second largest constituents of AFSA at 26.4% of the total membership. In this election, AFSA retirees account for 1,568 of the total votes or 47% of the votes counted. However, 1,568 retiree votes out of approximately 3,670 dues-paying retiree members amount to 42% of this constituency. In short – almost half the total AFSA retiree members sent in their votes.

This is not to say that the retirees should not have a voice in the direction of the organization.  But the active members of the Foreign Service, as the largest voting bloc and as the folks who have been repeatedly deployed to warzones, hardship/unaccompanied and dangerous assignments in the last decade, and who will continue to deploy to increasingly challenging assignments in the years ahead — they need to have their voices heard, in shall we say, more appropriate collective tone of voice.

And– they won’t have their voices heard unless you, the active members, participate in greater number in the process of picking your own representatives.

The Foreign Service has changed in so many ways in the last decade alone. I think candidates who are on active duty, who have served in warzones or hardship assignments, who have specialized skills in management, human resources, and other functional skills, those who have professional spouses navigating unemployment overseas — those with compelling and recent experiences from the trenches can only add to better representation of the rank and file of the service.

And, of course, being a self identified political junkie often disgusted with the darker side of politics, I’ve always thought that term limits are good for the soul. There ought to be term limits for the officers of AFSA; whether that’s two terms or three terms, the membership should decide on that. US presidents have it, why not members of the Governing Board?  Besides, with all the talented members of the Foreign Service, identifying good candidates shouldn’t be too hard, should it? 

Finally, growing the next crop of leaders from the relatively newer members of the organization ought to be one of its priorities. AFSA needs to grow the next generation of leaders needed to negotiate with management on issues affecting the changing Foreign Service.   

So don’t be a passhole. Go vote in the AFSA elections.  

Related links:

21st Century AFSA |
AFSA Strong |
Candidate Statements |

Related posts:

AFSA Election 2011: This Looks Like A Slam Dunk | Diplopundit | Mar 21, 2011

AFSA: Why Some Game Changers Are Needed Sooner Not Later |Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Drilling Down the 2009 AFSA Election Results | Jun 17, 2009


US Embassy Belgium Goes Green With Donations — from Green Companies, Of Course

On April 13, 2011, Ambassador Gutman opened his home to unveil the top-to-bottom energy-saving makeover of his 230-year-old official residence in Brussels, Belgium.  The makeover was reportedly completed in collaboration with the Alliance to Save Energy and the League of Green Embassies.

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

Ambassador Howard Gutman was joined by US Ambassador to Finland Bruce Oreck, the Chair of the League of Green Embassies during the grand opening.

The embassy statement says that the Alliance to Save Energy and the U.S. State Department-affiliated League of Green Embassies unveiled a €111,000 Euros energy-efficiency makeover at the 16,096.96-square-foot/1,496-square-meter Brussels residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Belgium. The top-to-bottom makeover, which will save energy and money while respecting the residence’s historic features and decor, is the culmination of several months of work by seven companies that are Associates of the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance, a nonprofit organization that promotes energy efficiency worldwide. The seven companies are 3M, Danfoss, Johnson Controls, Knauf Insulation, Philips, Schneider Electric and Whirlpool.

“While the residence may look like a home rooted in history,” said Ambassador Gutman, “it actually represents our energy future. That future boasts public private-partnerships, a comprehensive strategy incorporating appliance efficiency standards, the federal government leading by example in energy efficiency and both yesterday’s and tomorrow’s homes being more energy efficient.”

Ambassador Oreck commented, “This has been a year of action at the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki, and we are delighted that through the League of Green Embassies we are able to inspire and implement similar actions, not only in Europe but around the world. Through the partnerships established by the League, embassies are shaping the future and setting a precedent for others to follow.  Everyone has a role to play, and embassies globally are leading by example.”

The following were the donations from the big seven:

3M} Solar-reflecting Prestige 70 energy efficient films that block solar heat gain while allowing daylight through

Danfoss} radiator valves with time-controlled thermostats connected to a remote-control system that will reduce heat waste in non-occupied rooms throughout the house.

Johnson Controls} an educational, touch-screen kiosk that monitors and measures the energy efficiency improvements and provides real time data on energy savings

Knauf Insulation} donated two layers of insulation in the previously un-insulated attic, preventing up to 30% of the residence’s heat loss

Philips}  donated decorative applications and lamps, dimmable energy-fixtures with presence detection, and replaced 600 old light bulbs with energy efficient halogen and LED bulbs

Schneider Electric}
donated power meters, current transformers, an IO card for Gas usage, and a web-enabled energy monitoring system

Whirlpool} donated an entirely new set of Green Generation kitchen appliances including a cooktop, oven, microwave, dishwasher, toaster, and blender

The official statement did not included how much savings are expected from the residence’s energy efficiency enhancements.

And btw, who would have thunk? US Embassy Belgium photos are copyrighted! 

While we are on the subject of US Embassy Belgium, let me give them a shutout since no one is returning my emails.  Folks, you may not realize this but all your photos posted in Flickr are marked as copyrighted material. Unless you have become a private entity or a corporation while I was not looking, the work of the US Government is not subject to a copyright. United States government work as prepared by an officer or employee of the United States government as part of that person’s official duties is not subject to copyright in the United States and there are no copyright restrictions on reproduction, derivative works, distribution, performance, or display of the work.

Here is a photostream example from the big boss in the White House where all photos are marked United States Government Work. Yes, please go look. I’ll just wait here. 

Updated 4/26/2011
I just received the following email from US Embassy Belgium:

“I do apologize for waiting until dopo-dopo-dopo domani before responding.  We had some in-country travel (as you can see from our Flickr stream) followed by Embassy closures due to European holidays around Easter. Your email alerted me to this license issue; I had not noticed that our Stream was marked “All Rights Reserved.”  We shall certainly change that to match the practice of other USG sites.  

Glad to see that our email did not disappear into an online shedder.  Note is appreciated, many thanks and we’ll look forward to the update. 

In the meantime, you folks might like to check out US Embassy Belgium’s media presence online: Website at, the Ning platform at (you’ll need a Ning account), Twitter feed at usembbrussels, connect at Facebook, videos like the Trey McIntyre Project at YouTube and official events photographs in Flickr

Corrections on Ning site doesn’t require an account for viewing the photos and videos and for reading the comments.  All of that is completely accessible to the public.  In addition, those who join the Ning community are able to post comments, add their own photos, and reply to posted comments.

US Embassy #Syria Now on Ordered Departure for Family Members and Non-Emergency Staff

Syria Damascus Douma Protests 2011 - 05Image by syriana2011 via FlickrToday, April 25, the State Department updated its Travel Warning for Syria indicating escalating violent confrontations resulting in hundreds of deaths and the ordered departure of embassy family members and non-emergency staff from Damascus:

The U.S. Department of State urges U.S. citizens to depart immediately while commercial transportation is readily available.  Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, U.S. citizens who must remain in Syria are advised to limit nonessential travel within the country.  U.S. citizens not in Syria should defer all travel to Syria at this time.  The Department of State has ordered all eligible family members of U.S. government employees as well as certain non-emergency personnel to depart Syria.  Embassy operations will continue to the extent possible under the constraints of an evolving security situation.  Full consular passport and visa services continue to be provided.  This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Syria issued on April 4, 2011, to provide updated information on violent confrontations at demonstrations, increased security measures, and to note the ordered departure of some U.S. Embassy personnel and all family members.

Since March 2011, demonstrations throughout Syria have been violently suppressed by Syrian security forces, resulting in hundreds of deaths.  Demonstrations can take place anytime and anywhere.  Recent demonstrations have occurred on university campuses, main streets, public squares, mosques, and other places of public gathering.  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 a demonstration.

Several cities, including Damascus, have been placed under heightened security.  Travelers on Syrian roads have encountered an increased number of checkpoints and roadblocks impeding travel and preventing entry to or exit from affected cities.  On April 22, security forces prevented many from entering or leaving Damascus.

Syrian government constraints on observers, including the short-term detention of accredited diplomats, have made it difficult for Embassy personnel to adequately assess the 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.