US Embassy Bahrain’s Ludovic Hood: Move was in the "context of the summer transfer season" — ur kidding, right?

The Deputy Spokesman, Mr. Toner was dancing around the circumstances surrounding the departure of FSO Ludovic Hood from the US Embassy in Manama due to reported threats.  This report says that the campaign against Hood had been going on for two months with one of the most virulent attacks coming May 7 in an anonymous posting on a pro-government website that included links to photos of Hood and his wife on their wedding day and information on where Hood and his family lived.

The head of the office, the blog claimed, was “a person of Jewish origin named Ludovic Hood,” and charged: “He’s the one who trained and provoked the demonstrators to clash with the army” near the Pearl Roundabout that was the epicenter of the demonstrations.

Hood also was “the one” telling the opposition of the steps they should take “to inflame the situation,” the posting claimed.

The blogger called for “honest people to avenge” Hood’s role, gave the neighborhood in which he lived with his family in Manama, the capital, and promised to provide his street address. It linked to a wedding photo of Hood with his “Jewish wife, Alisa Newman.”

One reporter got so dizzy from Mr. Toner’s dance moves and finally requested a fill in the blanks briefing: “if you could say it in a full sentence: He was not transferred back to D.C. because of –“

QUESTION: Can you talk about this report that – about threats to one of your diplomats in Bahrain and his reassignment —
MR. TONER: Sure.
QUESTION: — or relocation?
MR. TONER: My understanding on this, Matt, is this is – you’re talking about Ludovic Hood–
QUESTION: Yeah.
MR. TONER: — who came back to the U.S. from Manama. He did just complete his tour in Manama and returned to Washington; he’s taken up a position here within the State Department. So he wasn’t recalled in his posting. As you know, our assignment cycle has already been set for, like, the last six months or so. That said, we are aware, as press reports have cited, that there were threats, accusations made against him on some websites, and obviously we take the safety of our diplomatic personnel very seriously. But in this case he was simply transferred back to Washington.
QUESTION: So it did – his coming back to D.C. had nothing to do with the —
MR. TONER: No.
QUESTION: Sorry?
MR. TONER: Yeah. No.
QUESTION: Are you investigating?
MR. TONER: It didn’t. It simply was his normal transfer. Sorry, am I not – no —
QUESTION: Well, no, I mean –
MR. TONER: We are – I guess I’m doing —
QUESTION: — if you could say it in a full sentence: He was not transferred back to D.C. because of —
MR. TONER: I’m sorry. I’ll give you the quote. No, he was not brought back here because of these accusations or allegations.
QUESTION: The reports of these allegations were on government-affiliated or associated websites and media there. Have you made any representations to the Bahrain Government to stop baselessly accusing your envoys there?
MR. TONER: Well, again, we have no way to confirm that they were actually made by the government or people within the Government of Bahrain. I’m aware that they were on these websites. But it’s unacceptable that any elements there would target an individual, a diplomat, for carrying out his duties. But beyond that, I’m not aware that it was raised —
QUESTION: Is the Bahrain foreign minister meeting with Steinberg today?
MR. TONER: He is, actually.
QUESTION: Is that going to be a subject of discussion?
MR. TONER: I don’t know what – they’re going to speak broadly about regional issues and then, obviously, very clearly they’re going to talk about the bilateral issues, including steps to ensure that civil rights and human rights are respected and that the government works to foster a constructive political change, but I can’t specifically say whether that’s going to be raised.
[…]
QUESTION: Just to put a final point on this Hood incident, you’re saying that – I understand that his tour was coming to a close and he was coming home, but you’re saying he was not brought back early because of these incidents?
MR. TONER: My understanding is that he wasn’t.
QUESTION: You’re sure about that?
MR. TONER: As sure as – I said my understanding is that he was not brought back early.
QUESTION: My understanding is he was brought back several weeks early. I mean, we’re not disputing that his tour was coming —
MR. TONER: Right.
QUESTION: — to an end, but —
MR. TONER: Right. My understanding is that it was not. While there were, obviously, concerns about his security – and again, we take the safety of our diplomats – and I don’t think we’re disputing that there were allegations or accusations, I guess, against him —
QUESTION: No, we’re not disputing that.
MR. TONER: — and we view that as scurrilous. We condemn it. But as far as his transfer goes, I believe it was done just within the context of the summer transfer season.

This report says that Mr. Hood left Bahrain last Thursday. According to unnamed U.S. officials cited by the report, “during his final days in Bahrain, Hood was given security protection equal to that of an ambassador.”

“The safety and security of our diplomatic personnel is our highest priority,” the State Department in Washington said in a statement in response to inquiries from McClatchy Newspapers. “It is unacceptable that elements within Bahrain would target an individual for carrying out his professional duties.”

It is reported here that in in his final message to his friends in Bahrain, Hood apologized that he had had to assume a low profile in his final weeks and couldn’t say goodbye. In his message, he sounded like a man ordered home on short notice.

“Hello,” he wrote. “I am leaving Bahrain today and moving back to Washington. I will start my new assignment at the State Department in June. I am sorry I was not able to say goodbye properly. Given recent developments affecting the Embassy, it was prudent for me to keep a low profile during my final weeks in Bahrain.”

He was just transferred back to DC on a regular rotation. Right. It’s not a state-sponsored targeting so no need to file a diplomatic protest. Right. To acknowledge that probably means the Deputy SecState would have to bring it up with the Bahraini Foreign Minister, like, “What are you trying to do targeting our people dude?” Except that Mr. FM of another great ally, may not like that, especially if delivered in an uppercase voice. 

Anyway, Mr. Hood will start work at the mothership in June; tomorrow is already June. He doesn’t get any leave before he starts his new job?  Yeah. Sounds pretty regular.

Nothing to see here, just “normal rotation.” Move along folks.

Now, what’s in Bahrain, again? Right.

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Confirmations: George Krol, Daniel Shapiro, Henry Ensher, Stuart Jones (Corrected)dated)

Also confirmed Ex-Im Bank and Public Diplomacy Commission nominees

The following civilian Executive Nominations were confirmed by the Senate on May 26, 2011:

PN114 *       DEPARTMENT OF STATE
George Albert Krol, of New Jersey, 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 Uzbekistan.

PN337 *       DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Daniel Benjamin Shapiro, of Illinois, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Israel.

PN362 *       DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Henry S. Ensher, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria.

PN427 *       DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Stuart E. Jones, 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 Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

PN272 *       UNITED STATES ADVISORY COMMISSION ON PUBLIC DIPLOMACY
Sim Farar, of California, to be a Member of the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy for a term expiring July 1, 2012.

PN273 *       UNITED STATES ADVISORY COMMISSION ON PUBLIC DIPLOMACY
William J. Hybl, of Colorado, to be a Member of the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy for a term expiring July 1, 2012.

PN408 *       EXPORT-IMPORT BANK OF THE UNITED STATES
Wanda Felton, of New York, to be First Vice President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States for a term expiring January 20, 2013.

PN409 *       EXPORT-IMPORT BANK OF THE UNITED STATES
Sean Robert Mulvaney, of Illinois, to be a Member of the Board of Directors of the Export-Import Bank of the United States for a term expiring January 20, 2015.

Correction:
Stuart Jones was also confirmed by the Senate on May 26, 2011. I regret the oversight. Thanks R!

FCO to reposition diplomats, EU diplos under fire, India, India, India and more….

Serious concerns are being voiced that the newly-created European External Action Service (EEAS) – known as “Europe’s State Department” – and the EU Commission are going beyond their remit to speak for the EU – {The Telegraph}

FCO is increasing its presence in India and China, the world’s two emerging superpowers; 50 diplomats to be deployed to China and 30 to India.  {VOA News.com}

India has long shown mouselike diplomatic clout but that’s changing as it starts to make waves in Africa {The Economist}.

State Department’s “Experience America” to Bring Ambassadors to Alaska {Alaska Journal}

U.S. authorities are investigating whether an Indian software giant Infosys Technologies Ltd.  repeatedly violated American visa laws in order to place its own foreign employees in temporary jobs at some big corporate clients in the U.S. {Wall Street Journal}

Diplomatic Immunity Interpretation: US  vs. India {Hindustantimes}

Tom Shah and Molly Huckaby Hardy were among the 44 U.S. Embassy employees killed when a truck bomb exploded outside the embassy compound in Kenya in 1998. Though it has never been publicly acknowledged, the two were working undercover for the CIA. In al-Qaida’s war on the United States, they are believed to be the first CIA casualties.
{Yahoo/AP}

Memorial Day Remembrance

U.S. Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry and Deputy U.S. Ambassador E. Anthony Wayne host a Memorial Day ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday, May 30, 2011.

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


Operation Iraqi Freedom
4772

Operation Enduring Freedom/Afghanistan
2495



Eligible Family Member Memorial Plaque
U.S. Department of State
(from State Magazine, February 2011)

2002
Kristen Wormsley {Pakistan}

2007
Zelda White {Kenya}

2010: {Haiti}
Evan James Yves Wyllie
Baptiste Thomas Michel Wyllie
Laurence Pignarre Wyllie

Locally Employed Staff Memorial Plaque
U.S. Department of State
(from State Magazine, February 2011)


2004
Mohammed Basheeruddin  {Saudi Arabia}
Romeo Delarosa  {Saudi Arabia}
Ali Bin Talib  {Saudi Arabia}
Imad Musa Ali  {Saudi Arabia}

2005
Ryadh Hamad {Iraq}
Ali Al-Hilifi {Iraq}
Raida Aghaveva {Azerbaijan}

2006
Ahmed Ifi khar {Iraq}**Iftikhar Ahmed {Pakistan}
Hussein Ibraheem Abdullah {Iraq}
Bijnan Ajarya {Nepal}

2007
Ali Mohammed Hashim {Iraq}

2008
Abdel Rahman Rahama {Sudan}
Moktar Al-Faqih {Yemen}

2010
Jean-Daniel Lafontant  {Haiti}
Olriche Jean  {Haiti}
Jacques Josue Desamours  {Haiti}
Laica Casseus  {Haiti}
Joseph Fontal  {Haiti}
Racan Domond {Haiti}

** I received the following note from an FSO who previously served in Pakistan: “Under 2006, you have “Ahmed Ifi khar {Iraq}”. It should be “Iftikhar Ahmed” and {Pakistan} — he was the LES who was killed with David Foy in the Karachi bombing. (Iftikhar, which means “Honor” in Persian, is his first name, though the concept of first name/family name doesn’t really exist in Pakistan).”

I have corrected the list above and checking with State/HR if this is a magazine error or a plaque error.  Thanks Dakota!

WashDC Leaky Cauldron: Michael McFaul, Russia "Reset" Advisor to be Next Ambassador to Moscow

Photo from White House

The WashDC Leaky Cauldron is leaking once again; it’s a permanent leak, what else is there to say.  VOA News reports that senior administration officials say U.S. President Barack Obama will nominate his top Russia advisor as the next ambassador to Russia.

Obama plans to nominate Michael McFaul, the architect of the administration’s so-called “reset” policy under which the Obama administration sought to re-energize bilateral ties that were widely seen as strained under the administration of former President George W. Bush.

The officials, who spoke Sunday, did so on condition of anonymity.

Read the whole thing here.

The unnamed senior administration officials, of course, leaked the yet to be announced nomination to the NYT which writes:

In selecting Mr. McFaul, Mr. Obama is breaking with recent tradition in Moscow, where all but one of eight American ambassadors over the last 30 years have been career diplomats. But in choosing someone from his own inner circle, Mr. Obama underscored his determination to keep Russian-American relations a centerpiece of his foreign policy after his early push to reset the relationship following years of growing tension.

Continue reading here.

Read his bio here as Stanford Professor of Political Science; Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution (he’s currently on leave).

 
 

Curious, Strange, Whatever — Victoria Nuland is Officially Announced as New State Dept Spokesperson

Victoria NulandImage via WikipediaThe Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs is the head of the Bureau of Public Affairs within the United States Department of State. Typically, the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs is also the official spokesperson of the State Department. The Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs reports to the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (“R”).

On May 26, 2011, the State Department announced the appointment of Ambassador Victoria Nuland as State Department spokesperson. She takes over PJ Crowley’s old gig at the podium but unlike PJ, she will not be dual-hatted as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs.  We should point out that Geoff S. Morrell, the Pentagon Press Secretary is also the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs.  Oops, different agency….

The State Department announcement includes other changes in  the front office of the Bureau of Public Affairs:

The State Department announces that Ambassador Victoria Nuland will serve as State Department Spokesperson and Mark Toner will serve as Deputy Spokesperson. Mike Hammer is the Acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Dana Shell Smith will serve as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, and Michael Ratney will serve as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Media. Cheryl Benton remains as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Outreach and Philippe Reines as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Strategic Communications.

Following Ambassador Nuland’s departure from the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance, Assistant Secretary Rose Gottemoeller will resume lead responsibility for issues related to the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty.

Ambassador Nuland’s brief bio via state.gov:

Ambassador Victoria Nuland was named Special Envoy for Conventional Armed Forces in Europe in February 2010. She previously served on the faculty of the National War College (2008-2009).

She was the 18th United States Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) from 2005-2008. As NATO Ambassador, she focused heavily on strengthening Allied support for the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, on NATO-Russia issues, and on the Alliance’s global partnerships and continued enlargement.

A career Foreign Service Officer, Ambassador Nuland was Principal Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President from 2003-2005, and the U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to NATO from 2000- 2003. From 1997-1999, she was Deputy Director for former Soviet Union affairs at the Department of State, with primary responsibility for U.S. policy towards Russia and the Caucasus countries. She has also spent two years at the Council on Foreign Relations as a “Next Generation” Fellow looking at the effects of anti-Americanism in 1999-2000, and as a State Department Fellow in 1996-1997, when she directed a CFR task force on “Russia, its Neighbors and an Expanding NATO.”

From 1993-1996, she was Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary of State. From 1991-1993, she covered Russian internal politics at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. She has also served on the Soviet Desk (1988-1990), in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia where she helped open the first U.S. Embassy (1988), in the State Department’s Bureaus of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (1987) and in Guangzhou, China (1985-1986).

She speaks Russian and French. Her awards include: the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service (2008); the Secretary of Defense’s Distinguished Civilian Service medal (1999); decorations from the governments of Italy and Lithuania, and numerous State Department Superior Honor awards. She received her B.A. from Brown.

On May 16, 2011, Laura Rozen of The Envoy and Josh Rogin of The Cable reported this forthcoming appointment of Ambassador Nuland.

Laura Rozen quotes one of the “denizens” of the7th floor:

“Toria is very skilled and talented and will do very well here,” one denizen of the State Department’s “executive level” seventh floor said, noting that given Nuland’s ties to GOP circles – her husband is Brookings foreign policy scholar and Washington Post columnist Robert Kagan, and she previously served as an adviser to Cheney — “who better…to aggressively defend the Administration’s foreign policy?”

Oh, dear – what stripe of justification is that?

Josh Rogin’s piece quotes former Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, Nuland’s old boss:

“Her appointment demonstrates that Secretary Clinton has, quite rightly, an extremely high estimation of the value and confidence in the Foreign Service,” Talbott said, “The more use that’s made of the foreign policy civil service and the Foreign Service, the better.”
[…]
“She has a high degree of self confidence and an absolute dedication to working for the administration she is working for, whatever administration that is,” Talbot said

When news of her appointment first trickled out, Eric Martin at Progressive Realist called it a “curious choice“:

Although definitive conclusions about Nuland can’t fairly be drawn from her choice of spouses, it’s not entirely irrelevant that her husband is a founding member of the Project for a New American Century and a board member of PNAC’s recent attempt at rebranding, the Foreign Policy Initiative.  In short, he’s a Washington player who aims to move administration policy further away from the promises of candidate Obama. Are we to believe that a household firewall will keep every bit of confidential Obama administration information in Nuland’s brain from coming to Kagan’s attention?  Obviously, Washington is an incestuous place, and there are precedents for such household conflicts of interest, but this one would be less disturbing if there were more reason to believe that former Cheney aide Nuland really had the administration’s interests at heart.

On May 20,  Patricia Kushlis at WhirledView  called it a “strange appointment:”

So the seemingly amoral Nuland, we’re led to believe, can and will do anyone’s bidding and do it well – in short, a consummate career diplomat.
[…] But why would Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration agree to appoint to this politically sensitive position someone who willingly served such a controversial figure in supporting and implementing the “war on terror” and all the baggage that comes with it?
[…]
[I]t’s unclear to me whether Nuland will need to go through Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings for the new position because, well, the two-pronged job that Crowley held did.  The first prong was as highly visible spokesman. The second as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs.  And I’m pretty sure that Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs did require Senate approval. But will Nuland face Senatorial scrutiny just as Spokesperson or not?  Maybe not and for her, that could only be fortuitous.  She’s too closely associated with Cheney and company to make this spokesperson appointment necessarily smooth sailing through a committee controlled by Democrats.

In a response to Eric Martin’s post, Andrew Exum, who blogs at Abu Muquwama, writes:

[I]t is completely unacceptable to question Victoria Nuland’s appropriateness for this position based on who her husband is, what he has written, and the policies for which he has advocated. My wife and I sometimes work on the same region of the globe – she as a professional working for an intergovernmental organization, me as a civilian researcher at a defense policy think tank. Should my wife’s career opportunities be limited on account of policy papers I have written for the Center for a New American Security? Of course not.
[…]
[I]t is important to distinguish here between political appointees and career civil servants working in the Executive Branch. Victoria Nuland served in the Bush Administration and worked for Vice President Cheney in her capacity as a career officer in the foreign service. (She had previously held positions, also as a career foreign service officer, in the Clinton Administration.) [snip]  It is unfair to hold these people responsible for enabling and executing the policies of the elected officials they serve in the same way that it would be unfair to hold a division commander in the U.S. Army responsible for the policy decision to invade Iraq. If, of course, an individual is nominated for a position that requires confirmation by the U.S. Senate, these and most other questions are fair game.

Read Andrew Exum’s full response here.

If this appointment is torpedoed simply because of her husband and her prior association with a controversial figure, that would send very bad vibes to career diplomats. After all, can you really say “no” if POTUS or VPOTUS asks you to serve in such and such a position? And if you say “yes” does that mean you’re also saying goodbye to your career as a professional diplomat when a next administration is sworn in?

On the other hand, one has to wonder what’s the real deal here? Obviously, the decision makers are well aware of the perceived political baggage that this career officer has in her backpack and was willing to run with her, nonetheless.

So — we’ll have to see how well the “consummate career diplomat” can navigate the “household firewall” and the podium under the glare of intense “baggage” scrutiny.  I imagine that if her “baggage” starts interfering with the message or if she starts to become the story, the decision makers have a Plan B.

Ambassador Nuland may actually be the first female career diplomat to encumber this high profile spokesperson position.

There was Ambassador Carol Laise who served under President Nixon from October 10, 1973-March 27, 1975. She was the the first female Assistant Secretary of State and she served at the public affairs bureau.  The State Department’s Office of Historian lists her as a Foreign Service Officer, her obituary in the NYT indicates that she was a civil servant. Typically, the A/S for Public Affairs is also the official spokesperson; I can’t tell if such was the case with Ambassador Laise.

Then there was political appointee, Margaret D. Tutwiler. She was Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy from  March 3, 1989-August 23, 1992 under the Bush Senior administration and served concurrently as Department of State spokesman.

People magazine (yes, that one!) in the 1990’s on Margaret Tutwiler:

She casts no vote in Congress, plays no direct role in shaping legislation. She isn’t much in evidence in that theater of intrigue, the Washington, D.C., cocktail circuit. Still, she is one of the capital’s most powerful women and for the past year has been one of the world’s most visible. Why? Because almost everyone who wants the official word at Foggy Bottom or needs access to the U.S. Secretary of State must follow a direct path through the office of Margaret Tutwiler.

That’s because the State Department spokesman speaks on behalf of our country.  In that People interview Ms. Tutwiler said something that may be a challenge to the new spokesperson:

“If you’re a Ph.D. and have 17 degrees, the press doesn’t care,” she says. “They like to know that you have a fair idea of the person on whose behalf you are speaking. And I do know this President and this Secretary of State very well.”

That’s something that Philippe I. Reines can say, perhaps not when it comes to President Obama but certainly when it comes to Secretary Clinton. Ambassador Nuland potential message relay goes through her boss, Mike Hammer, then whoever succeeds Judith McHale as the next “R”, then whatever layers you have inside Hillary’s inner circle in the 7th Floor. 

In any case, this is a very, very short list: Laise, Tutwiler, Nuland ….

Note that the announcement of Ambassador Nuland’s appointment came from the State Department and not the White House.  I could be wrong on this, but since she is appointed as spokesperson but not as Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs, there may not be a Senate confirmation. But if her appointment is ranked Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS), I think there will be a Senate confirmation.

We should know soon enough if/when she starts (or not) fielding questions during the Daily Press Brief.

If you have a better source on people and diplomatic history that can help clarify the above info on Ambassador Laise, I would appreciate a comment/correction.

Update @10:04 pm PST
One of our blog pals (thanks L!) reminded us that of career diplomat, Phyllis E. Oakley who was  Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration also served in the Public Affairs Bureau.

Mrs. Oakley actually served as the Deputy Spokesman for the State Department from November 1986 until the end of January 1989, the first woman to hold this position.

Today at the SFRC: Gary Locke

Official portrait of United States Secretary o...                               Image via WikipediaToday at the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations:

Presiding: Senator John Kerry
Date: Thursday, May 26, 2011
Time: 10:15 AM
Location: 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Nominee
    The Honorable Gary Locke,
    of Washington, to be Ambassador to the
    People’s Republic of China

Video of the hearing and testimony will be available here.

 

 

Bill Burns At the SFRC: Nomination for Deputy Secretary of State

May 24, 2011: Under Secretary Burns appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on his nomination for Deputy Secretary of State.

His statement to the committee is here.

US Embassy Yemen Now on Ordered Departure

The State Department has just issued a new Travel Warning dated May 25, 2011 urging American citizens not to travel to Yemen and announcing the ordered departure of non-emergency U.S. Embassy personnel and all family members:

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest.  The Department urges U.S. citizens not to travel to Yemen. U.S. citizens currently in Yemen should depart while commercial transportation is available.  The Department of State has ordered all eligible family members of U.S. government employees as well as certain non-emergency personnel to depart Yemen.  Due to the fluid security situation in Sana’a, the Consular Section will only be able to provide emergency American citizen services.  This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning for Yemen issued on March 6, 2011 to provide updated information on violent confrontations at demonstrations, increased security measures, and to note the ordered departure of non-emergency U.S. Embassy personnel and all family members.

The security threat level in Yemen is extremely high due to terrorist activities and civil unrest.  There is ongoing civil unrest throughout the country and large-scale protests in major cities. Violent clashes are taking place in Sana’a, and may escalate without notice. 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.  Terrorist organizations continue to be active in Yemen, including Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).  The U.S. government remains concerned about possible attacks against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests.  Piracy in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean is also a security threat to maritime activities in the region.  See our International Maritime Piracy Fact Sheet at http://travel.state.gov.

U.S. government-facilitated evacuations occur only when no safe commercial alternatives exist.  Evacuation assistance is provided on a cost-recovery basis, which means the traveler must reimburse the U.S. government for travel costs.  The lack of a valid U.S. passport may hinder U.S. citizens’ ability to depart the country and may slow the U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide assistance.  U.S. citizens in Yemen should ensure that they have proper and current documentation at all times.  For more information, see “What the Department of State Can and Can’t Do in a Crisis” on http://travel.state.gov. Evacuation options from Yemen are extremely limited due to the lack of infrastructure, geographic constraints, and other security concerns outlined below.  The U.S. government typically evacuates U.S. citizens to a safe haven, and travelers are responsible for making their own onward travel plans.  Travelers should not expect to be evacuated to the United States.

Active links added above.  Read more here. The US Embassy in Yemen went on authorized voluntary departure on March 6, 2011; read our post about that here, including the challenges of evacuating private Americans from the country.  An ordered, non-optional departure, leaving only core personnel at the embassy signify worsening security situation. It is a non-military evacuation by a polite name.  Our thoughts and prayers to our friends there.

 
 
 

"R" for Resignation: U/S for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale to Leave Post Next Month

Judith McHale (2009)Image via WikipediaJudith McHale, the  Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs also known as “R” in Foggy Bottom is reportedly the latest State Department official to tender her resignation and the third of nine senior officials at State to do so. Ms. McHale was sworn in on May 26, 2009 : 

Via WaPo’s Al Kamen, May 23:

Judith McHale, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, is expected to announce as early as Tuesday that she will be leaving her post in June to return to the private sector in New York, sources said.

For the past two years, McHale, former general counsel and then president and chief executive of Discovery Communications, has overseen hundreds of employees in the department’s international information programs, in the educational and cultural affairs bureau, and in the public affairs operation at State, as well as in embassies overseas.

I have not seen the official announcement but I just saw the May 24 statement from the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy on the “Departure of Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Judith McHale”:

The Commission would like to express its appreciation to Judith McHale for her public service, her leadership and her contributions over the past two years as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. We recognize and appreciate that she has focused her efforts on raising the profile of her office and on enhancing the capability of the Department of State to effectively engage foreign public audiences across the globe. In light of the extraordinary events ongoing – and to come –around the world, public diplomacy has never been so vital to the national security interests of the United States. We look forward to having an equally productive relationship with Judith’s successor as the Commission continues its mission to appraise the efforts of the United States Government to engage foreign publics.

Will there be anyone left by the end of summer?