Anonymous FSO on Kojo Nnamdi: "the Foreign Service today is a rather broken organization"

Kojo Nnamdi recently hosted Diplomacy Post-9/11: Life in the U.S. Foreign Service. His guests were Susan Johnson, president of the American Foreign Service Association who previously served in Cuba, USUN,  Mauritius, Pakistan, Russia, Central Asia, Romania, Iraq and Bosnia; AFSA rep, Matthew Asada, a Foreign Service officer who has served in Iraq, Pakistan, Germany, India and Washington, D.C.; and Cameron Munter, U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and previous U.S. Ambassador to Serbia who spent 20 years in Central Europe and served two tours in Iraq before his posting in Pakistan.

You can listen to the entire show here.

There were a few call in questions and one email read on the air by the host:

NNAMDI 12:44:07

We have this email from S, who says, “I’ve been in the Foreign Service for 11 years and, thus, must remain anonymous. I don’t know how to say this without sounding like a whiner. I know your guests will try to sound rosy, but, truth is, the Foreign Service today is a rather broken organization. Like a body adapting to a tumor, the Foreign Services need to repeatedly fill one year unaccompanied hardship slots in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.[…]  “AIP service, as we call it, has caused the organization to wrap itself around this need. All other priorities have become second or third tier.” Cameron Munter, what would you say to that?

MUNTER 12:44:47

It’s a very tough question. I mean, I feel the pain that he expresses because it’s something that all of us have to deal with. No one likes the idea of an unaccompanied post. And yet I think what we’re doing here is — I take issue with the idea that we’re a broken organization. We’re an organization that has chosen priorities.

MUNTER 12:45:04

We’re making priorities, and we’re doing the best to be professional to maintain our idealism and our practical ability and to address those things that our president wants us to do, that our secretary of state wants us to do. These are tough assignments. They must be done. And if that means that we’re going to spend time without our loved ones and spend time in situations that we might not have thought we’d be in, that’s the way it’s going to be because, after all, it is Foreign Service.

MUNTER 12:45:34

We have to be self-critical and say, how can we do this better? We always have to learn from these experiences. And if I had my way, I would talk people into longer assignments. I think one year is very short, very difficult to do the work you need to do. But, nonetheless, we will make this work. We’re here to serve, and these are tough days. And we’ve got to get through this period successfully.

Some interesting stuff in the conversation mostly from Ambassador Munter. You can read the entire transcript here.

The host did ask how well has the Foreign Service adapted the way it screens applicants and promotes people. And Ambassador Munter made some points about the Foreign Service struggling whether it is a traditional or expeditionary service but did not really address the question about promotion.

One thing that the callers and the guests did not talk about is how the “AIP” service has changed the Foreign Service. To get a promotion in the Foreign Service, I am told that one must served in the priority posts of Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. Those are not the only hardship posts, mind you, but I’m hearing that promotions are going to AIP vets.

Isn’t it entirely conceivable that in the not too far away future, the top ranking officials (political appointees excepted, of course) at the bureaus, offices, chanceries under the State Department would be made up of career officials who came from those three priority countries? 

What would that mean in terms of leadership and management styles — good? bad? won’t mean a thing? What would that mean in terms of perspective and experience limited to a specific geographic area? A WHA ambassador who has served in AIP posts but had never served in the western hemisphere? It’s not that this would be so totally uncommon given that political appointees with no language and most of the time no host country experience still get the top jobs at a good portion of our embassies. Still, this is the career service we are talking about.   

If one take consecutive tours at AIP posts, then repeat it once more for a total of six years, how fast can one get into the senior ranks? I’ve seen a few officers with 15 years get into the Senior FS but I think those are the exceptional ones. Most folks have to slog many more years than that. What does it mean to folks who serve in hardship but non-warzone assignments and do a good job just as well if they can’t get promoted?  Why would anyone go to unaccompanied, hardship posts outside of AIP (Africa, for instance) if you can’t get promoted out of there no matter how hard you work or how great you are? Since just about everyone will be expected to serve their tours in AIP, I wonder why do they continue calling it an “open assignment?”

So many questions, so little time …. but some food for thought….

Peter Van Buren: How the State Department Came After Me

Seal of the United States Department of State....Image via Wikipedia

The State Dept probably need FSI to create a training module later on how to deal with FSO-Os with funny bones, sharp pens, acerbic tongues; particularly those who
also have the talent for
pillar and punch and bright red boxing gloves in the wordy world.

Peter Van Buren may be the first, but he won’t be the last. The Afghanistan-PRT Experience Project is a book just waiting to happen. And it’s not because the State Department has adopted DHS’ “If You See Something, Say Something™” campaign.  It will happen, it’s just a matter of time, because folks can only tolerate beings hamsters on wheels for so long.  The PRT model started in Afghanistan and was exported to Iraq. Now that the Iraq-PRT Experience has turned into a book, the Afghanistan book is bound to happen. It’s only a matter of time, and we’ve got time between now and 2014 and between 2014 and who knows when …

As I was getting ready to post this, I also received a
note from a Diplopundit reader and long-time State insider who pointed out that this is not
the first time that Peter Van Buren has put himself in the crosshairs. 
Remember the 2007 passport fiasco that
got everybody all up in arms?  Apparently, back in late 2006, Mr. Van
Buren sounded the alarm to his top boss in Consular Affairs that “she
was going to need a lot of extra bodies to handle the coming surge in
passport applications.”  According to my source, Mr. Van Buren’s “reward” was to be transferred from the Consular Bureau to Public Affairs. That is obviously fine and good if you’re a PD officer, but not so good if you are a Consular Officer. So, perhaps the April Foolly-press guidance is not too off the mark after all. I am republishing the piece below in full. It seems like an important thing to share with others. I am sympathetic with Mr. Van Buren’s plight but not sure the Big House will be as sympathetic; pies are hard to clean up.

How the State Department Came After Me
For telling the truth about what I saw in Iraq

by Peter Van Buren
[Reprinted with the author’s permission.  The original is here. Also cross-posted in Foreign Policy here]

never intended to create this much trouble. 

years ago I served 12 months in Iraq as a Foreign Service Officer, leading a
Provincial Reconstruction Team. I had been with the State Department for some
21 years at that point, serving mostly in Asia, but after what I saw in the
desert — the waste, the lack of guidance, the failure to really do anything
positive for the country we had invaded in 2003 — I started writing a book.
One year ago I followed the required procedures with State for preclearance (no
classified documents, that sort of thing), received clearance, and found a
publisher. Six months ago the publisher asked me to start a blog to support the book.

then, toward the end of the summer, the wrath of Mesopotamia fell on me. The Huffington Post picked up one of my blog
, which was seen by someone at State, who told someone else and before
you know it I had morphed into public enemy number one — as if I had started
an al Qaeda franchise in the Foggy Bottom cafeteria. My old travel vouchers
were studied forensically, and a minor incident from my time in Iraq was blown
up into an international affair
. One blog
from late August that referenced a Wikileaks document already online
elsewhere got me called
in for interrogation
by Diplomatic Security and accused of disclosing
classified information. I was told by Human Resources I might lose my job and
my security clearance, and I was ordered to pre-clear every article, blog post,
Facebook update, and Tweet from that point out. A Principal Deputy Assistant
Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs wrote, without informing me,
directly to my publisher, accusing me in writing of new security violations
that had apparently escaped the sharp eyes at Diplomatic Security, and demanded
redactions. The publisher refused, citing both the silliness of the actual
redactions (everything was already online; one requested redaction came from
the movie Black Hawk Down, and another from George Tenet’s memoirs) and the
First Amendment.

seemed kind of sad, kind of desperate, and maybe a little bit unfair. I always
took my obligation to protect information seriously, and all my material went
through a careful vetting process with the publisher as well as with State to
make sure nothing had slipped through.

wrote about all this on the blog TomDispatch,
and before I knew it, the story went viral. I found myself returning calls to
the New York Times, the ACLU,
Reporters Without Borders, CBS, NPR, and about a million blogs and radio
stations. I had hoped to promote the book I had written, which came out
, but the story ended up being about me and the State Department

never intended this to be a fight against my employer of 23 years, and I never
intended to become a poster child for the First Amendment. However, I’m not one
to back down when bullied, and I am afraid that in their anger and angst, the
Department of State has acted like a bully. In addition to false accusations of
security violations, State has used its own internal clearance requirements as
a blunt weapon.

State Department, on paper, does
not prohibit blogs, tweets or whatever is invented next. On paper, again, responsible
use is called for — a reasonable demand. But this rule must cut both ways —
responsible writing on my part, responsible control on State’s part.

responsible standards for clearance. The department’s “pre-clearance”
requirements are totally out of date. Originally designed for a 19th-century
publishing model, its leisurely 30-day examination period is incompatible with
the requirements of online work, blogs, Facebook, and tweets. But the department
has refused to update its rules for the 21st century, preferring instead to use
the 30 days to kill anything of a timely nature. What blog post is of value a
month after it is written, never mind a tweet?

addition, the pre-clearance rules are supposed to be specific in their goals: to
prevent classified or privacy protected information from going out, stopping
info on contracts and procurement, and blocking private writing that seeks to
pass itself off as an official statement from the Department. In my case,
however, any attempts to pre-clear blog posts ran into the Department of Silly
Walks. My bland statements about the military in Iraq made using easily
Googleable data were labeled “security risks.” When even those were
clipped out, everything I wrote was labeled as possibly being confused with an
official statement, even though my writing is peppered with profanity, sarcasm,
humor, and funny photos. Say what you want about my writing, but I can’t
imagine anyone is confusing it with official State Department public
statements. As required, I always include a disclaimer, but the pre-clearance
people simply tell me that is not enough, without explaining what might be
enough other than just shutting up.

instead of using pre-clearance as it is on paper, a tool to guard only against
improper disclosure with which I have no disagreement, it is used as a form of
prior restraint against speech that offends State. Me, in this instance.

have been battered to death with public statements from the Secretary of State
on down demanding the rights of bloggers and journalists in China, Burma and
the Middle East be respected. While the State Department does not lock its
naughty bloggers in basement prison cells, it does purposefully, willfully, and
in an organized way seek to chill the responsible exercise of free speech by its
employees. It does this selectively; blogs that promote an on-message theme are
left alone (or even linked to
by the Department) while blogs that say things that are troublesome or
offensive to the Department are bullied out of existence. This is not
consistent with the values the State Department seeks to promote abroad. It is
not the best of us, and it undermines our message and our mission in every
country where we work where people can still read this.

have a job now at State that has nothing to do with Iraq, something I enjoy and
something I am competent at. To me, there is no conflict here. I’d like to keep
my job if I can, and in the meantime, I’ll continue to write. I have no need to
resign in protest, as I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong absent throwing a
few pies at some clowns and bringing to daylight a story that needed to be
told, albeit at the cost of some embarrassment to the Department of State. That
seems to me compatible with my oath of office, as well as my obligations as a
citizen. I hope State comes to agree with me. After all, State asks the same
thing of governments abroad, right?

US Embassy Kabul: We know duck and cover is hard, but clean up when you’re done, okay?

Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight...Image via WikipediaWe heard about that shooting at an Embassy Annex from CBS shortly after it happened on September 25.

In an undated statement that I think came out on Monday, the U.S. Embassy Kabul gave a one-paragraph statement about the incident.  A “lone gunman” who happens to be a local employee was killed, a U.S. citizen civilian employee was killed, and another was wounded

The Kabul Nightingale told me that the the US Embassy Kabul Front Office (where all mission rivers run through) didn’t officially tell the Embassy community about the death until two days after it happened. Because it’s always good management practice to keep the truth from staffers who might get scared or get nightmares.

So presumably, if they had internet access over there, most of the staff had to read about what happened 700 hundred yards away, from the news outlets based in New York?

That shooting story broke wide on Monday, September 26. That same day, a Management Notice reportedly also went out reminding all employees that after a prolonged duck and cover scenario, they should clean up after themselves. Like clean and mop the place for the next duck and cover occupants?  What did you do there – have a party while doing the duck and cover.  Sheesh!

The Kabul Nightingale says that given that some people had to spend upwards of 10 hours, 10 hours, mind you, huddled in a tunnel with no access to food, water or restroom, mission members were pretty darn outraged. Outrage is understandable, have you ever tried to hold it in for 30 minutes? Gawd! That’s the most awful experience; that’s how purple people are made, even doing square roots in your head would not/not help. Take my word for it.

All I can say is if we could afford some $2 million dollars to put sod to green the front of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, I say, we certainly can afford portable potties inside the duck and cover tunnel, or something. 

But you know what requisition is like in the government. In the meantime, if you’re heading there, you might need training on how to hold it in duck and hold.  Try the harder square roots.

Update: One of our blog pals who is at another post asked, “Wait, they built a duck and cover tunnel, without a potty?  Come on,
even the commies know that bunkers need potties, kitchens, beds, etc. 
Please tell me we’re prepped for a siege, ’cause it could happen.”

Um, sorry pal, I can’t say they’re prepped for a siege; I do agree that it could happen if that 20-hour embassy attack that was no big deal is any indication. The attack which lasted for 20 hours was conducted by 6 terrorists, now dead.  But can you imagine a more ambitious attack with a dozen or more terrorist, who presumably will plan on dying anyway?  I can. I can also imagine duck, cover and hold for 48 hours, can you?

Perhaps it is time for to the US Embassy in Kabul to issue employees Roadbag, a $5.40 German-made device that turns your pee to gel, just in case.  Also check out “America’s Premier Preparedness Center” for their Pee Bags© at $7.99 + s&h per four pack you get liquid waste bags, pack
of tissue and antiseptic hand wipe.

I’d personally prefer Roadbag, not Made in America, but quite frankly, I think the Germans get it.  Nothing to spill and clean up, see? Email this to your Front Office, please? 

PRT Farah – Nine Count Indictment For Former Army Contracting Officials and DOD Contractor

Via DOJ:

WASHINGTON—A former member of the U.S. Army employed by a private security firm was arrested at Miami International Airport today on charges of bribery, fraud and theft of government funds, in connection with the award of a contract to provide services to a U.S. government provincial reconstruction team in Farah, Afghanistan.
Raul Borcuta was arrested in Miami today when he tried to enter the United States from Europe. Upon Borcuta’s arrest, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois unsealed a nine-count indictment charging Borcuta and his co-conspirators, Zachery Taylor and Jared Close, with mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy, bribery, and theft of government funds.

According to the indictment, Borcuta, 32, defrauded the U.S. government in connection with a contract to provide two up-armored sport utility vehicles to be used by an official in the government of Farah Province, Afghanistan, who had received death threats from insurgent groups. The indictment alleges that Borcuta bribed U.S. Army contracting officials Taylor, 40, and Close, 40, with $10,000 each to award him the contract and to make full payment to Borcuta before the vehicles were delivered. Taylor and Close, formerly U.S. Army staff sergeants assigned to the provincial reconstruction team in Farah, allegedly authorized a payment of approximately $200,000 in U.S. government funds to Borcuta. According to the indictment, Borcuta received the payment and never delivered the vehicles required by the contract.

The defendants face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each mail fraud count, 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count, 30 years in prison for each conspiracy count, 15 years in prison for each bribery count and 10 years in prison for each theft of government funds count.

An indictment is merely a charge and defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Read in full here.


Officially In: Michael A. McFaul to Moscow

White House Photo

This is a catch up post on the nomination of Michael A. McFaul to be Ambassador of the United States to the Russian Federation.  President Obama announced his intent to nominate Mr. McFaul on September 14.  We have previously written about this in late May 2011 in WashDC Leaky Cauldron: Michael McFaul, Russia “Reset” Advisor to be Next Ambassador to Moscow.

The WH released the following brief bio:

Michael A. McFaul is a Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director, Russia and Eurasia Affairs for the White House National Security Staff.  Previously, McFaul was a professor in the Political Science Department at Stanford University, a position he held from 1995 to 2009. While at Stanford, McFaul served from 2003 to 2009 as the Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the co-director of the Iran Democracy Project at the Institution. He was also a Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, serving as the Deputy Director of the Institute from 2006 to 2009. From 2005-2009, he also was the director of Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law.  From 1994 to 2009, McFaul was a Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and served as the Director of the Russian Domestic Politics Program.

He holds a B.A. in International Relations and Slavic Languages and an M.A. in Russian and East European Studies, both from Stanford University.  McFaul received a Ph.D. in International Relations from Oxford in 1991, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

Injured War Contractors Sue Over Health Care, Disability Payments

by T. Christian Miller,  ProPublica, Sep. 27, 2011, 10:11 a.m.

Private contractors injured while working for the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan filed a class action lawsuit [1] in federal court on Monday, claiming that corporations and insurance companies had unfairly denied them medical treatment and disability payments.

The suit, filed in district court in Washington, D.C., claims that private contracting firms and their insurers routinely lied, cheated and threatened injured workers, while ignoring a federal law requiring compensation for such employees. Attorneys for the workers are seeking $2 billion in damages.

The suit is largely based on the Defense Base Act, an obscure law that creates a workers-compensation system for federal contract employees working overseas. Financed by taxpayers, the system was rarely used until the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the most privatized conflicts in American history.

Hundreds of thousands of civilians working for federal contractors have been deployed to war zones to deliver mail, cook meals and act as security guards for U.S. soldiers and diplomats. As of June 2011, more than 53,000 civilians have filed claims for injuries in the war zones. Almost 2,500 contract employees have been killed, according to figures [2] kept by the Department of Labor, which oversees the system.

An investigation by ProPublica, the Los Angeles Times and ABC2019s 20/20 [3] into the Defense Base Act system found major flaws, including private contractors left without medical care and lax federal oversight. Some Afghan, Iraqi and other foreign workers for U.S. companies were provided with no care at all.

The lawsuit, believed to be the first of its kind, charges that major insurance corporations such as AIG and large federal contractors such as Houston-based KBR deliberately flouted the law, thereby defrauding taxpayers and boosting their profits. In interviews and at congressional hearings, AIG and KBR have denied such allegations and said they fully complied with the law. They blamed problems in the delivery of care and benefits on the chaos of the war zones.

The State Dept Gets Van Burened While the Spokesman Talks About Our $3 Billion F-16s Fire Sale to Support a Peaceful Iraq

Collage of images taken by U.S. military in Ir...Image via WikipediaI was expecting a tsunami to hit Peter Van Buren’s cubicle in Foggy Bottom today.

Apparently, the tsunami ordered is on hold perhaps because Mr. Van Buren is on leave?

Instead, the State Department got Van Burened today with Peter Van Buren’s story splashed across multiple media outlets. The State Department spokesman made the best possible response with a “no comment” to media inquiries; or she would have been there till midnight answering questions on pages x, and xx, and xxx and on and on. Too bad, I would have like to know if the Green Grass ambassador also ordered frangipanis?

Tomgram: Peter Van Buren, WikiLeaked at the State Department

CBS: When freedom’s not free at the State Department

HuffPo: The Only Employee at State Who May Be Fired Because of WikiLeaks

Salon: Interrogated by the State Department

The Guardian

SpyTalk: State Department Harassing Officer Who Revealed Iraq waste

Mother Jones: The Only State Dept. Employee Who May Be Fired Because of WikiLeaks

Wired: State Department Employee Faces Firing for Posting WikiLeaks Link

A couple of days ago, NPR did a radio interview with Mr. Van Buren and it also did an accompanying piece entitled, The Greedy Battle For Iraq’s ‘Hearts And Minds’. Quick excerpts below:

Van Buren says many of his State Department colleagues who have read the book agree with him in private but have publicly shunned him for speaking out about what he saw in Iraq.

“Many of them accused me of picking on them or … blaming them for things that I knew were institutional,” he says. “They didn’t make these decisions because they were stupid. I didn’t make these decisions because I was stupid. We all knew we were told we were to do these things, and they’re a little angry at me for labeling them as complicit in this when they knew that they weren’t.”
“Everyone in Iraq was there on a series of one-year tours, myself included,” he says. “Everyone was told that they needed to create accomplishments, that we needed to document our success, that we had to produce a steady stream of photos of accomplishments, and pictures of smiling Iraqis and metrics and charts. It was impossible, under these circumstances, to do anything long term … We rarely thought past next week’s situation update. The embassy would rarely engage with us on a project that wasn’t flashy enough to involve photographs or bringing a journalist out to shoot a video that looked good. The willingness to do long-term work … never existed in our world.”

Check it out here.

The good news is the New York Times has so far ignored the book.  That is always a good thing, see because landing there can get you usually toasted according to an early warning system. The book also has not made an appearance in WaPo or in Al Kamen’s In the Loop column, landing there can also get you toasted with garlic. We are hoping that the Colbert Report would come knocking on Mr. Van Buren’s door. The tragicomedic account with a dash of abrasive seems appropriate in that format. But one can hope.

Since there was no tsunami, we had to look around and see what else is going on in Iraq. Apparently, the United States of America is selling Iraq a dozen and a half of those F-16s at a total cost of $3 Billion. Well, at least some folks will be happy, and working, and putting together those planes. And this should calm some worries about the future of the F-16s.

Here is the Spokesman talking about “the cornerstone of the kind of cooperation that we hope to have in the
future to support the secure, peaceful, democratic development of Iraq.” Stop laughing, you over there!

QUESTION: Yes, two quick ones. One – I think this came up yesterday – an advisor to the Iraqi prime minister said that Iraq has signed a contract to buy 18 F-16s. Any comment on that?

MS. NULAND: Yes. Iraq has now made its first transfer payment for the purchase of 18 F-16 fighter aircraft, initiating this foreign military sale. These aircraft are going to help provide air sovereignty for Iraq and to protect its territory and deter or counter regional threats.

They also, as a significant military sale between us, are a symbol of the commitment that we’ve made to the Iraqi Government to have a long-term strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq on equal, sovereign terms.

And we expect foreign military sales of this kind, including items like the F-16, to serve as the cornerstone of the kind of cooperation that we hope to have in the future to support the secure, peaceful, democratic development of Iraq.

QUESTION: A couple things. How much was the first transfer payment?

MS. NULAND: I don’t have a number on the first transfer, but the total value of the sale is approximately $3 billion.

QUESTION: And then are they – and this displays the full extent of my knowledge about F-16s – but are they the A/Bs or the C/Ds?

MS. NULAND: I’m going to take that one. Actually, you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to send you to the military on that one to DOD.

QUESTION: Oh, come on. Oh, come on.

MS. NULAND: I don’t have which kind of F-16s we’ve got here.

I suppose some of our soldiers will be left in Iraq teaching them
to fly those planes, do airplane maintenance, and such other things.
Will they buy tanks, too, and drones, etc.,etc?  I think we know how this
will end, sort of — no permanent bases, just visiting.


US Embassy Kabul: Not Safe Even Inside the Bunker; One Amcit Killed, One Wounded by Afghan Employee

US Embassy Kabul Statement on the September 25 Evening Shooting Incident at an Embassy Annex:

“There was a shooting incident at an annex of U.S. Embassy Kabul in the evening of September 25.  The lone gunman, an Afghan employee, was killed.  The motivation for the attack is still under investigation. One U.S. citizen was killed and one wounded, who was evacuated to a military hospital with non-life threatening injuries. We mourn the loss of life in the incident, and express our heartfelt condolences to the families. The Embassy has resumed business operations.”

CSMonitor has more on this attack:

“Sunday’s shooting could be of particular significance as it took place inside an area of the Embassy known to be used by the Central Intelligence Agency. It may also be the first time an Afghan working with a Western civilian organization killed his counterparts.

US officials have remained exceptionally tight-lipped about the incident, likely due to its potential link with the CIA. Intelligence officials have yet to offer any public comments and the Embassy issued only a brief statement confirming the shooting and saying, “The lone gunman, an Afghan employee, was killed. The motivation for the attack is still under investigation.”

Hamsters on the Titanic (
Sure the deck’s slanting, but this wheel is fun!) in And then they tried to blow up the CIA writes:

And it is on like Donkey Kong. Well, probably no more “on” than it was before insurgents apparently tried to blow up the Ariana Hotel, used by the CIA in Kabul. There was some gunfire in my neighborhood last night, which was probably related to a reported attempt by President Karzai to visit Rabbani’s home to pay final respects.

I don’t know if that gunfire was any kind of attack, or the ANSF
attempting to disperse some kind of crowd, or what, but it doesn’t
appear that there was an attack in my particular piece of the Kabul
landscape. What did actually happen no one actually knows, since it all
took place within the the confines of the Ariana.
Since the CIA compound is definitely a no-go zone for ANSF, they
weren’t involved…at all. In fact, Afghan officials made that very clear
to reporters last night, that they had no idea what was going on, and
that reporters should ask ISAF. When ISAF was asked, they also said they
had no idea, and that folks should contact the ANSF. Since no one’s
involved, it has to be OGA. Still, great use of social media by NTM-A to


“The insurgency has been turned back… and Afghan National Security Forces are increasingly strong and capable.

Gotta love that social media.

All I can say is if that lone gunman was a locally engaged staff (know as LES or more kindly, as Foreign Service Nationals), that is a scary thought.  That means even the bunker is no longer safe.  It may have an impact on job creation in US diplomatic and consular posts in Afghanistan.

And if that lone gunman was a locally engaged staff but was not a guard, this would even be more troubling, as how did he managed to get a weapon inside an annex that is presumably well-guarded given its purported occupants.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought all the local hire staff in Afghanistan already get a polygraph as part of their employment package. Of course, it’s not like a poly is as good as the precogs of Minority Report.

More scary thoughts about the bunker, I’m going to have nightmares tonight. 






What the State Department Spokesman Said to NPR/Fresh Air …

In speculating about the fallout post publication of that book, I suggested that if somebody has already read the book, the Spokesman could say something like,
let’s see — “We know this books is coming out. We do not agree with Mr.
Van Buren’s views but his views are his own. We have nothing further to
say about this issue.”

NPR reported that Fresh Air contacted a spokesman for the State Department, who
declined to respond to Van Buren’s book except to say that the author’s
views are his own, and not necessarily those of the State Department.

If only the State Dept could figure out how to clone Ambassadors Crocker and Ford?

Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly who previously worked as a staff adviser for Iran and Iraq in OSD/ISA/NESA at the Pentagon (where he was seconded to Iraq according to his bio), recently wrote a piece on Commentary Magazine praising two ambassadors while slamming two:

I certainly share Max Boot’s praise of Ryan Crocker​ and Robert Ford for the professionalism with which they distinguish themselves in a crisis. However, what really distinguishes how honorable is Crocker’s character—as opposed to so many of his Foreign Service colleagues—is how he distinguished himself outside the halls of the Foreign Service.
In recent days, for example, Mark Parris, ambassador to Turkey between 1997 and 2000 and long a cheerleader for the ruling AKP government, has just become the non-executive director of a Turkish-British company with tens of millions of dollars in Iraqi Kurdish oil interests, a position he could not attain had he not remained in the Turkish government’s good graces. Marc Grossman, pressed into service post-retirement to fill Richard Holbrooke’s shoes, had also profited from contacts with Turkey’s ruling party during his retirement when he began to work with Ilhas Holding. Likewise, when Libyan rebels overran the intelligence ministry in Tripoli, they found recent minutes of a meeting between former Assistant Secretary of State David Welch and Qadhafi regime officials. Welch retired from the State Department​ to win Libya contracts for Bechtel. Welch’s behavior might be legal, but it is shameful.
But, since Ford is such a high-value asset in a Department which has so few, why not send Ford to a post where the United States could truly use his skill, like Turkey or Lebanon, both of which have ambassadors now who are particularly weak and who have not shown themselves to be effective?

Active links added above. Read in full here.

The US Ambassador to Turkey is career diplomat, Frank Ricciardone. The US Ambassador to Lebanon is 25-year veteran, Maura Connelly. I’m sure neither one would appreciate being called “particularly weak” in the lead up to the promotion sweeps.

Max Boot who was cited in this piece also writes, “If only the State Department could figure out how to clone them–or at least inspire more of their colleagues to imitate their sterling example.”

I don’t think innovation at the State Department actually includes reproductive human cloning at this time. But when they figure out how, there will be a background briefing with senior administrative officials, I’m sure of it.

About Ambassador Ford, Josh Rogin of The Cable reported last week about the GOP’s new-found love for our Ambassador to Syria.

The State Department senses that the tide is turning on the Ford nomination as well, and is pushing Ford out to the media this week. He conducted on-the-record interviews with The Daily Caller¸ the Huffington Post¸ and with your humble Cable guy.

In a phone call with The Cable, Ford laid out the reasons he believes that he should be allowed to stay in Damascus.

“When an ambassador makes a statement in a country that’s critical of that country’s government, when that government visits an opposition or a site where a protest is taking place, the statement is much more powerful — and the impact and the attention it gets is much more powerful if it’s an ambassador rather than a low-level diplomat,” Ford said.

Will Congress find new love too for stuck-on you Ambassadors Ricciardone (Turkey), Bryza (Azerbaijan) and Eisen (Czech Republic) whose nominations have all been filed in the back folder since forever. I think their recess appointments will expire in December.