Attack on American Convoy in Baghdad Kills USAID Contractor, Wounds Three

The State Department has now released the name of the the USAID contractor killed in the June 23 attack on a US convoy in Iraq. The three individuals wounded have not been identified.  From the Spokesman:

Iraq: Terrorist Attack on American Convoy in Baghdad | June 23, 2011

The United States condemns a terrorist attack in Baghdad today that claimed the life of international development and finance expert Dr. Stephen Everhart and wounded three others. Dr. Everhart was an American citizen who was working in Iraq for an implementing partner of the United States Agency for International Development’s Mission in Iraq. He was killed while working on a project to introduce a new business curriculum to a Baghdad university in a program supported by the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education. His support of efforts to advance a modern and efficient financial sector has benefited the people and business enterprises of Iraq and his lifelong dedication to public service has improved the lives of countless people around the world.

We are saddened by this tragedy and extend our thoughts and prayers to Dr. Everhart’s family and loved ones, and to the three other injured victims and their families.

According to an Iraqi police official cited by AP, the American contractors were visiting a satellite office of Mustansiriyah University in eastern Baghdad when they were hit by a roadside bomb. .

This is the second time in several days that a civilian convoy was attacked in Iraq. On June 20, a French embassy convoy was hit by a roadside bomb in Baghdad, wounding at least seven people.

Two is not a trend, but this is worrisome; how much worse can this get post-military withdrawal?

Afghanistan, the Way Forward — You Know What’s Coming — Send In the Expeditionary Ones

So President Obama gave a speech yesterday about the way forward in Afghanistan. And folks are tearing their hair out in frustration. One side is not happy with any substantial withdrawal from Afghanistan, the other side is not happy that it’s not fast nor substantial enough. When 33,000 troops come home by next summer, we will still have some 70,000 troops in that war zone not counting the civilians. President Obama:

“Thanks to our extraordinary men and women in uniform, our civilian personnel, and our many coalition partners, we are meeting our goals.  As a result, starting next month, we will be able to remove 10,000 of our troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, and we will bring home a total of 33,000 troops by next summer, fully recovering the surge I announced at West Point.  After this initial reduction, our troops will continue coming home at a steady pace as Afghan security forces move into the lead.  Our mission will change from combat to support.  By 2014, this process of transition will be complete, and the Afghan people will be responsible for their own security.”

It’s like we’ve been teaching the Afghans to bike for some time now. At some point, we have to let go and let them ride on their own. We cannot be hovering around them forever or they’ll never learn to ride or blame us for their inability to ride. 

And the civilians? Although the President did not mention the civilians, I expect that the call for more diplomats and civilians to go to Afghanistan will follow whatever size, shape or form the military drawdown in that country will take shape.  It has already started. This op-ed today from the NYT:

“Develop “expeditionary” civilians willing to be deployed to danger zones critical to national security for years not months. The military has an “AfPak Hands” program to develop a cadre of 750 officers with knowledge and expertise to work on the region’s problems for five to seven years. Civilian agencies could do something similar, creating a team based in Washington, traveling frequently to the field, living in-country for up to 24 months, working the problem for four to five years, and developing the area and language expertise needed to do the job.”

This is not the first time we’ve heard the idea of a civilian expeditionary corps. Remains watching if it will stick this time. 

But as in Iraq, the transition from military to eventually civilian-led, because that’s where it’s going —  will be challenging.

We are now seeing the “surge” of contractors in Iraq to continue reconstruction work and to provide personal security for our civilian workers. As we move to a “smaller” military footprint in Afghanistan, there will be additional requirement for diplomats and civilians to take over.  Only it will be in a much larger scale when it happens and much more expensive.  Afghanistan is much larger in size than Iraq and has a more difficult terrain which means bringing in civilians and protecting, feeding, housing them will be much more complex without the US military.

The President on Reconstruction Nation Building at Home

“Above all, we are a nation whose strength abroad has been anchored in opportunity for our citizens here at home.  Over the last decade, we have spent a trillion dollars on war, at a time of rising debt and hard economic times.  Now, we must invest in America’s greatest resource –- our people.  We must unleash innovation that creates new jobs and industries, while living within our means.  We must rebuild our infrastructure and find new and clean sources of energy.  And most of all, after a decade of passionate debate, we must recapture the common purpose that we shared at the beginning of this time of war.  For our nation draws strength from our differences, and when our union is strong no hill is too steep, no horizon is beyond our reach.

America, it is time to focus on nation building here at home.”

It’s good to hear that; now, we want to follow the action here at home.

I am still shocked to hear politicians/etc claim that we can afford to fight these wars indefinitely, afford the reconstructions of our cities, communities, our public infrastructures in disrepair, while we continue to offer tax breaks to the richest people in this country — um, dudes, what meds are you on?

I can only conclude that either these folks are on tons of medications, or they live in a foreign country, and fly around the USofA via private air service that they and their families have no excuse to use our public schools, our potholed streets, our falling bridges, our train stations and airports, etc. etc. and no way of really knowing how bad things are outside their well manicured neighborhoods.

The full text of President Obama’s remarks is here.

The Secretary of State was over at the SFRC. The Cable quotes her:

“We have now reached the height of the civilian surge,” Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “Looking ahead, as the transition proceeds, we will shift our efforts from short-term stabilization projects to longer-term sustainable development that focuses on spurring growth and integrating Afghanistan into South Central Asia’s economy.”

Josh Rogin notes that Secretary Clinton “did not give details about how the structure or size of the civilian surge would change as U.S. forces begin to withdraw.”

US Embassy Tel Aviv: Price for Illegal Work in the U.S — Too High!

The US Embassy in Tel Aviv has posted a new version of its video discouraging illegal work in the U.S. especially those on tourists visas.

“Over the past few years, some Israelis wanting to work in the U.S. have been saying during visa interviews that they want to go to the U.S. only as tourist travelers. After their arrival at a U.S. airport and questioning by immigration inspectors, the true purpose of their U.S. trip is then discovered. What can follow is detention, possibly a court hearing, and then an immediate return to Israel along with a multi-year ban on future travels to the United States.”

This video with English subtitles features Israelis talking about their negative experience  and includes cameo appearances by embassy investigators.

US Embassy Nepal: A Visit to Pangboche Monastery Between the Holy Mountains of Khumbila and Mount Everest

Ambassador Scott H. DeLisi and a U.S. Embassy delegation visited the site of Pangboche Monastery, a recipient of $83,500 in funding through the 2010 Ambassadors’ Fund for Cultural Preservation (AFCP) grant.  The delegation trekked approximately 50 miles on foot and by horse for five days to reach the site, which is located in Sagarmatha National Park near Mount Everest Base Camp at an elevation of 13,000 feet.  Ambassador Delisi participated in a puja (ritual ceremony) to initiate the main restoration work of the ancient Monastery, which serves as the education center for Sherpas of Nepal.

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

Some great photos! But I wish this embassy would stop marking its official photos All Rights Reserved, because guys, they’re not!

I’m tired of sounding like a broken record but official embassy photos are U.S. government work and have no copyright restrictions —

“A United States government work is prepared by an officer or employee of the United States government as part of that person’s official duties. It 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.”

Also, Ambassador DeLisi has an official page in Facebook where he presumably shared his travelogue on this trip, but you must have an FB account to read what he wrote. That’s some kind of public outreach, certainly would make FB happy.

Below are the online platforms the embassy uses in its public engagements: