Embassy Baghdad General Hospital, the Spinoff – Catch It This Fall or Winter But Don’t Forget Your Kevlar

General Hospital, the only ABC soap opera still in production after January 20, 2012, will be joined by a spinoff, Embassy Baghdad General Hospital to debut in the 2011-2012 season.  While head doctors, nurses, oh, and construction crews are still to be recruited, please try your best not to get hurt over there.


Because it’s not teevee over there!  According to the OIG a “fully staffed medical facilities may not be in place by the end of the year and and will be costly to establish and sustain.[REDACTED]”

Holy mother of goat and all her crazy nephews!

So if our folks are IED’ed over there between October and December, they’re supposed to do what, go band-aid or something?

Here’s the story — by October 1, 2011, the State Department will assume full responsibility for the U.S. presence in Iraq, as DOD withdraws its remaining 50,000 troops by December 2011, based on the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement. 

But, but …. that’s only four months away —

Don’t be anxious because the embassy has plans!

Via the OIG report on Department of State Planning for the Transition to a Civilian-led Mission in Iraq Performance Evaluation, fresh from the oven:

Embassy Baghdad plans to establish a network of contractor-supported medical facilities to provide comprehensive medical care after the U.S. military’s withdrawal. A concept of operations has been developed and excess military medical equipment has been requested from DOD, but the Department is still in the contract solicitation phase (emphasis added).

Senior embassy officials told the OIG team there is a risk the embassy will not have a fully mission capable medical operation prior to the military’s departure. For example, a contractor needs to be selected; doctors, nurses, and medical technicians identified and deployed; facilities constructed; and a host of logistical operations settled.

The embassy plans to develop its own medical care operations because all but two hospitals (in Erbil) cannot be used due to security concerns or inadequate medical care.

Plans call for establishing an undetermined number of medical units to provide on-site primary and initial emergency care for general medical, surgical, orthopedic, gynecologic, and mental health conditions to personnel at embassy sites. There are also plans to set up an undetermined number of diplomatic support hospitals to provide medical/trauma care and overnight bed capabilities. The largest of the diplomatic support hospitals will be located within the U.S.-controlled area at the Baghdad International Airport. This hospital will have the staff and equipment to manage two surgical patients, as well as post-operative/intensive care to stabilize up to six patients until they can be medically evacuated.

The cost to develop and sustain medical care operations is currently unknown, but according to embassy officials, it will be considerable. Further, based on interviews with embassy management, security, and medical personnel, and review of available planning documents, the [REDACTED]

Although embassy medical plans do not currently include the capability for handling a mass casualty event, embassy officials stated that even the U.S. military’s current combat support hospital can be overwhelmed by a large number of casualties. The embassy won’t have the resources that are currently available at the military’s hospital; however, embassy officials stated that they are developing scenarios and will continue to explore possibilities for mitigating the impact of a mass casualty event, such as moving surgeons, employing fixed wing embassy planes, utilizing a civilian air ambulance service, or calling upon possible military resources to transport casualties to advanced trauma care facilities in Amman, Europe, or the Gulf.

I have friends deploying to Iraq this summer.  I can’t understand why we continue sending unarmed civilians over there to do “reconstruction.” And even if I can convince part of my brain as to the reason we’re sending unarmed civilians over there to do “reconstruction,” I still can’t understand why this is coming down the wires with four months to go. 

Can you imagine sending our soldiers to battle without a fully functional medical support nearby?  Nope, I can’t. But apparently, it is perfectly imaginable and doable to send our diplomats and civilians to a hot zone without the same support. 

But wait, combat operation is over in Iraq. Right, except that they’re still shooting folks over there and bombs are still going off everywhere.

May I puke perfectly now?

Embassy Air Iraq: Tickets Available Soon…In the Meantime, Fire Up Your Brooms

Martin Le France (1410-1461)

The things you find out in govies reports!  I am aware of the air fleet the State Department is putting together (see our post on the new helo fleet here). I just did not know the exact number or that it officially has a name.  Below is an extract from the OIG report on Department of State Planning for the Transition to a Civilian-led Mission in Iraq Performance Evaluation, just released.

As of January 2011, Embassy Air Iraq consisted of 19 aircraft based in Baghdad.

The plan is to expand up to as many as 46 aircraft by December 2011, to include:

• 18-20 medium lift S-61 helicopters

• 14-18 light lift UH-1N helicopters

• Three light observation MD-530 helicopters

• Five Dash 8 fixed wing aircraft (50-passenger capacity)

The future quantity and mix of aircraft are under review, in conjunction with pending decisions on the future of the U.S. mission in Iraq and the size and scope of the Department’s police training program.

The fleet will be based and maintained in Baghdad, Basra, and Erbil and will service ring routes transporting personnel into and out of Iraq, internally from Baghdad to Basra and Erbil, and to and from helicopter hubs in support of embassy branch offices, police training centers, and OSC sites.

In addition to putting in place an air operation with more than 20 aircraft supporting a 7-day-a-week mission load, the embassy is facing a number of other challenges in the months ahead.

First, the Department must finalize agreements with the Governments of Iraq, Jordan, and Kuwait authorizing Embassy Air Iraq flight plans.

Second, the Department needs to finalize land use agreements with the GOI to base aircraft in Basra and Erbil and use landing zones at the hub sites.

Third, flight and landing zones, maintenance hangars, operation buildings, and air traffic control towers need to be renovated or constructed. Construction is in the initial stage in Baghdad and is only in the planning stage in Erbil and Basra. According to INL officials, completing these construction tasks by December 2011 will be difficult.

Finally, the embassy must develop an independent aviation logistics operation for maintenance and refueling. Maintenance hangars with cranes are not available and Iraqi commercial aviation fuel delivery capability and dependability is poor.

So if the air operation is not in place by the time DOD  withdraws from Iraq, our State Department folks will just have to fire up their brooms?

The report is now posted online:
-05/31/11   Department of State Planning for the Transition to a Civilian-led Mission in Iraq Performance Evaluation (MERO-I-11-08) May 2011  [1258 Kb]

State Dept’s Transition to a Civilian-Led Mission in Iraq, Whassup?

The Office of the Inspector General will release today its performance evaluation of the Department of State Planning for the Transition to a Civilian-led Mission in Iraq (Report Number MERO-I-11-08, May 2011). It does not look good.

Four months to go and a lot of large items are still on the to-do list.

Why we’d stay in Iraq with 17,000 civilian personnel in 15 sites across the country with questionable support from the Hill after our military withdraw, under current fiscal reality is foolish. But it looks like we’re doing this, this ambitious Future of Iraq Project II and I fear that the results will be just as costly. And I’m not just talking dollars.


By October 1, 2011, the Department will assume full responsibility for the U.S. presence in Iraq, as DOD withdraws its remaining 50,000 troops by December  2011, according to the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement.1 This withdrawal will require the Department to provide security, life support, transportation, and other logistical support currently provided by the U.S. military in Baghdad, at consulates in Basra and Erbil, at embassy branch offices in Kirkuk and Mosul, and at other sites throughout Iraq.

The transition from a military to a civilian-led mission in Iraq is an unprecedented undertaking, highly complex in nature and scope, with extensive requirements for staff, budgets, and organization—all taking place in an operating environment that is still violent and unpredictable.

The OIG inspectors, bless their hearts, know how to give brownie points:

The Department of State (Department) and Embassy Baghdad have put in place planning and management mechanisms to effectively transition to a civilian-led presence in Iraq. However, several key decisions have not been made, some plans cannot be finalized, and progress is slipping in a number of areas. The lack of senior level Department participation dedicated to the transition process, which has been a weakness, may be alleviated by the Secretary of State’s appointment of an Iraq Transition Coordinator.

The report enumerates the many challenges of a civilian-led mission:

Establishing a viable diplomatic mission in Iraq without Department of Defense (DOD) support and funding will require considerable resources. However, challenges to transition planning make it difficult to develop firm or detailed budget estimates. The Department faces many challenges in transitioning to a civilian-led effort in Iraq, including:

  • Transfer of police training from DOD to the Department is generally on schedule, but plans for the size and scope of the mission have had to be revised and land use agreements have not been confirmed. Protective security for contractor personnel working for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) will be provided by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS). INL and DS are working on a protective security plan, which they intend to conclude soon.
  • Establishment of an Office of Security Cooperation (OSC) is behind schedule,and full mission capability is unlikely by October 2011.
  • Construction of four planned provincial posts has been delayed by the inability to decide on scope, size, and land use; and uncertain future funding. In addition to cost, security and safety concerns at the current facilities in Erbil make that location particularly problematic.
  • To meet air transportation requirements, the Department will need to procure additional aircraft, obtain agreements on flight plans and land use,construct or renovate air facilities, and maintain aircraft. (see separate post)
  • Losses in protective security capability for U.S. Government personnel caused by the military’s withdrawal will need to be mitigated through closer working relationships with the GOI, as well as access to DOD security-related information and equipment. In addition, there are still weaknesses in Iraqi military specialty units.
  • Fully staffed medical facilities may not be in place by the end of the year and will be costly to establish and sustain.[REDACTED] (see separate post)
  • Embassy housing is nearing full capacity, and it may be difficult to absorb the expected influx of personnel. In addition, necessary generator maintenance will decrease available electric power at the same time as demand increases.

FY2011 Iraq Request: 2.7 Billion; FY2012: 6.3 Billion

Establishing a viable diplomatic mission in Iraq without the considerable support and resources of DOD will almost certainly require years of effort and the investment of significant resources. However, difficulties in making final decisions and completing plans have hindered the ability to derive firm, detailed budget figures for completing the transition and sustaining operations. The administration requested $2.7 billion for Iraq in FY 2011 and has requested $6.3 billion in FY 2012.

Future American Consulate in Erbil

The embassy plans to construct temporary facilities by upgrading three provincial reconstruction team (PRT) structures and the regional reconstruction team (RRT) facilities in Erbil. Locating a future consulate in Erbil will be costly, and the security and building safety of the current facilities are problematic. Colocating a temporary consulate at a contingency operations site (COS) near the Erbil airport, which has existing DOD infrastructure, may be a viable alternative.[REDACTED]

Note that the Erbil province covers an area of 5,570 square miles in the north of Iraq, with an estimated population in 2001 of 1.13 million. It is largely populated by Kurds with Assyrian, Arab and Turkoman minorities. From 1974 onwards, the province of Arbil formed part of the Kurdish Autonomous Region of northern Iraq.

Going to Iraq? Bring Your Tent. And Hand Fan!

Embassy Baghdad is nearing its full housing capacity with nearly 4,000 beds, but will need to accommodate an influx of civilian personnel, which is currently planned to increase to around 8,000 by the end of 2011. The embassy is negotiating with the GOI to obtain more property currently occupied by the U.S. military, but there are no contingency plans if these property leases are delayed or denied. Further, OIG finds NEA’s proposed accommodation solutions neither optimal nor sustainable in the long term. In addition, the electric power generation system is already operating at full capacity using all generators full time. These generators will have to undergo maintenance sooner than planned, which will decrease the amount of electricity when demand is increasing.
NEA officials told the OIG team that creative ways would be found to accommodate and provide life support for more civilian personnel, including “hot bunking” (creating shifts for use of sleeping rooms), adding more containerized housing units, or requiring private contractors to find accommodations off of the embassy compound in nearby neighborhoods. OIG agrees with the embassy that none of these options is optimal or sustainable in the long run.

Ready or Not: 5,405 Projects Valued at $15.2B Transferred to Iraq

Embassy officials cited the difficult security environment and poor contractor performance as the major hindrances to project completion. In addition, embassy officials noted the challenge of getting local and provincial governments and GOI ministries to readily assume responsibility for some transferred projects. Despite these challenges, embassy officials noted that, to date, they have been able to transfer 5,405 projects valued at $15.2 billion to local and provincial governments or GOI ministries. Current projections call for completing and transferring the final, remaining 83 projects between the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012.

US Mission Iraq: 17,000 personnel; 15 sites

The Department’s current plan for Iraq calls for approximately 17,000 personnel under chief of mission authority at 15 sites throughout the country. The goal is to have political, economic, and security personnel throughout the country, especially in key areas, such as Mosul and Kirkuk, to engage daily with their Iraqi counterparts, help defuse crises, and develop long-term solutions to problems. This ambitious diplomatic plan is constrained by competing budget priorities and pressures to restrict overall federal spending.

The OIG report concludes:

Establishing a viable diplomatic mission to maintain Iraq as a strategic partner will almost certainly require years of effort and the investment of considerable resources. The Department has requested $6.3 billion in FY 2012 for its programs and activities in Iraq, but recent congressional debate foretells a tightening fiscal situation that may require hard choices in the years ahead. Managing the transition in Iraq is an unprecedented effort as is the Department’s transformation into an expeditionary organization working in an overseas contingency operational environment.

Do you fell like playing the Awful Mess Mystery album, like now?

As 2010’s World’s Deadliest Country for the Press, Pakistan Has a Track Record

Not a single one of the killers has been brought to justice

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists,  Pakistan became the world’s deadliest country for the press in 2010, with at least eight journalists killed there in connection with their work, constituting a significant portion of the worldwide death toll.

Since 1992, 36 journalists have been killed in Pakistan. On June 1, that number officially became 37 with the death of Syed Saleem Shahzad.

Pakistan: Silencing the truth-seekers
The kidnapping and murder of Syed Saleem Shahzad, the bureau chief for Asia Times Online in Pakistan, only days after he had exposed a link between al-Qaeda and servicemen is a tragic reminder that the nation is “the world’s most dangerous country for journalists”. Saleem’s journey took him from the back streets of Karachi to the badlands of the AfPak border in the search of truth, and he paid the ultimate price.
– Karamatullah K Ghori (Jun 1, ’11)

Justice, not words
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has made all the right noises over the death of Syed Saleem Shahzad. This means nothing unless the killers are brought to justice.
Asia Times Online (Jun 1, ’11)

Target: Saleem
When a Pakistani journalist – not a foreigner – writes that al-Qaeda is infiltrated deep inside the military establishment, the mission’s on. You abduct, torture and snuff him. Assassination, low-tech, is how they finally got Saleem. And “they” had to be the Inter-Services Intelligence – as he knew, and told us, all along.
– Pepe Escobar (Jun 1, ’11)

Asia Times Online journalist feared dead

Syed Saleem Shahzad, the Pakistan Bureau Chief for Asia Times Online who went missing on Sunday evening, has been killed, according to police.
Shahzad, who has been writing for Hong Kong-based Asia Times Online for nearly 10 years, failed to show up for a scheduled appearance on a television talk show in the capital Islamabad.
Asia Times Online (Jun 1,’11)

Who Killed Saleem Shahzad?
Courageous Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, who had scored major scoops on al Qaeda and the Taliban, was abducted and brutally murdered this week. Was the ISI, the country’s shady intelligence agency, to blame? Ron Moreau, Fasih Ahmed, and Marvi Sirmed report on the ISI’s history of intimidation—and why Shahzad’s death may have been a bloody warning to scare off their critics in the media.
-Ron Moreau | The Daily Beast

The piece that may have offended a host of characters, most especially inside the government of Pakistan:

Al-Qaeda had warned of Pakistan strike
Al-Qaeda carried out the brazen attack on PNS Mehran naval air station in Karachi on May 22 after talks failed between the navy and al-Qaeda over the release of naval officials arrested on suspicion of al-Qaeda links, an Asia Times Online investigation reveals.
Syed Saleem Shahzad (May 27,’11)

Syed Saleem Shahzad’s book, Inside Al-Qaeda and the Taliban,  Beyond Bin Laden and 9/11 was released on May 20, a few days before his abduction. He left behind a wife and three children, the youngest only 7 years old.