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.