Talk Getting Louder – Ambassador Richard G. Olson Heading to Pakistan

We have previously posted here about Ambassador Richard Olson, currently of US Embassy Kabul but may not be for long (see US Mission Pakistan: Ambassador Munter’s Summer Departure and Is This Our Next Man in Islamabad?). The talk that he’s heading to Islamabad is getting louder.  The Cable’s Josh Rogin is reporting based on three sources that President Barack Obama intends to nominate Ambassador Richard Olson (not Olsen as reported) to be the next U.S. ambassador to Pakistan.  Three sources with direct knowledge of the pending appointment apparently told The Cable.

Olsen, a senior member of the foreign service, has been serving as the coordinating director for development and economic affairs at U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, since June 2011. If confirmed, he will replace Ambassador Cameron Munter, who announced in May that he would step down from his post after only 18 months on the job. Munter, who presided over the Islamabad embassy during perhaps the worst period in U.S.-Pakistan relations in over a decade, resigned of his own accord and will retire from the foreign service and join the private sector, these sources said.

Before going to Kabul, Olsen was U.S. ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 2008-2011. He previously served abroad in Mexico, Uganda, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Iraq, and as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. mission to the NATO.

Read in full here.

The US Embassy Kabul now has Hilda M. Arellano as its Coordinating Director for Development and Economic Affairs (CDDEA), a post previously held by Ambassador Olson.

Below is Ambassador Olson when he was the COM in Abu Dhabi; and that’s no ordinary bird, that’s a falcon:

U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson during a visit to the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital (ADFH), the largest such facility in the world. (Photo from US Embassy Abu Dhabi)

We’ll just wait here for the official announcement. In the meantime, click on image above for more photos of our dashing Ambassador Olson during his time in Afghanistan.

Domani Spero

US Embassy Vietnam: Congressman Calls for Firing of Ambassador Shear ‘Cuz Embassy Not An Island of Freedom

On July 9th, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) who represents the 10th District  since 1981 (and is up for reelection) in northern Virginia, the home to many Vietnamese-Americans has called for the firing of the US Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear.  This is not the first time, he has done this, of course.  In May this year, Congressman Wolf had also called for Ambassador Shear’s sacking.

If we fire our diplomats every time a congressman is upset with a career diplomat, we won’t have anyone left to run our embassies.

According to Congressman Wolf’s office, Ambassador David Shear should be removed because he has “repeatedly failed to advocate for human rights and speak out for the voiceless in Vietnam.” Wolf recommended that Shear be replaced by a Vietnamese-American.

In his letter to President Obama, Congressman Wolf was particularly upset by 1) Ambassador Shear’s “failure to invite more dissidents and human rights activists” to the U.S. Embassy for a July 4 celebration after promising that he would; and 2) was disappointed in Ambassador Shear’s handling of the case of Dr. Nguyen Quoc Quan, a Vietanmese-American democracy activist and U.S. citizen presently being held by the Vietnamese government.

Below is an excerpt from Congressman Wolf’s letter to the WH with some photos we’ve dug up online from the US Embassy Vietnam:

I have long believed that U.S. embassies should be islands of freedom – especially in repressive countries like Vietnam. Under Ambassador Shear’s leadership it didn’t appear that the U.S. embassy in Hanoi was embracing this important task. But even more troubling is the fact that Dr. Quan is an American citizen, and yet there appeared to be little urgency to securing his release.

In speaking by phone with Ambassador Shear following the hearing I expressed my concerns and urged him to host a July 4th celebration at the embassy, where the guest list was comprised of religious freedom and democracy activists in Vietnam. I stressed that he should fling open the doors of the embassy and invite Buddhist monks and nuns, Catholic priests and Protestant pastors, Internet bloggers and democracy activists. Such was the custom during the Reagan Administration, especially in the Soviet Union. This practice sent a strong message that America stood with those who stand for basic human rights. In many cases it afforded these individuals protection from future harassment and even imprisonment.

From left to right: Clara Davis-Long, DRL DAS Kathleen Fitzpatrick, AAL Suzan Johnson Cooks, Archbishop Nguyen Van Nhon, U.S. Ambassador David Shear, and Father Hung.
(Photo from US Embassy Hanoi/Flickr)

Ambassador Shear said that he intended to honor this request. Following my conversation with him I received the enclosed letter from the department indicating that, “Ambassador Shear continues to engage with civil society advocates, promoters of rule-of-law, and democracy activists and will welcome them to the Embassy’s July 4th celebration.” I took Ambassador Shear at his word and in fact shared this correspondence with members of the Vietnamese Diaspora community in the U.S., several of whom were greatly encouraged by this development.

Late last week it was brought to my attention that many of the most prominent democracy and human rights activists in Vietnam were not invited to the event. These reports seemed starkly at odds with the assurances I had personally received from Ambassador Shear. I called him directly this morning to find out if the embassy had invited the dissidents as had been agreed upon. His response was appalling. He said that he had invited a few civil society activists but then said that he needed to maintain a “balance.”

From left to righ: Clara Davis-Long, IRF Desk Officer, DRL DAS Kathleen Fitzpatrick, U.S. Ambassador David Shear, Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook and Dr. Nguyen Thanh Xuan, Vice Chair of the Committee for Religious Affairs
(Photo from US Embassy Hanoi/Flickr)

I wonder how many prominent democracy and human rights activists flooded the 4th of July celebrations at our embassies in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, or China? And is Congressman Wolf upset with those as well?

Who would have thought that the 4th of July could be such a perilous event? And how many is “more” really, that seems like an important number.

I can understand Ambassador Shear’s point about “balance” but also appreciate the mission discretion over these invitees. Vietnam is run by a repressive, communist regime. The embassy has to deal with the government in place, not the government it wished were in place. That said, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the democracy or human right activists who shows up at this function could be put in peril just by the perception that they are working with the Americans. Does Congressman Wolf really want this kind of showy camera moment outreach during our national day or should we not prefer that the embassy have a more substantial engagement beyond the bright lights?

SON LA, Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Nov. 15, 2011) – Dr. Joshua Peck, center, a forensic anthropologist from the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, briefs Ambassador David Shear, right, at a remote recovery site. Five recovery teams are searching in the Thai Nguyen, Bac Giang, Lang Son, Son La, and Thanh Hoa provinces at aircraft crash and burial sites for six Americans unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War. The ultimate goal of JPAC, and of the agencies involved in returning America’s heroes home, is to achieve the fullest possible accounting of Americans lost during the nation’s past conflicts. (DoD photo by Mr. Jason Kaye, U.S. Navy/Released)

Just a side note here — the 2012 IG report tells us that the Government of Vietnam requires advance permission to conduct programs outside U.S. Government premises, controls the print and electronic media, and sometimes limits access to Internet sites. The US Embassy in Vietnam has been creative in using Vietnamese alumni of U.S. exchange programs as they are able to operate outside the restrictions placed on American speakers.  These alumni can more easily engage with wider audiences as credible, informed communicators about their American experience, something the USG speakers are unable to do. That’s how restrictive is the operating environment. Heck, even acquiring land for a much-needed, new embassy compound there have stalled because the GOV is unwilling to grant a lease term that is acceptable to the State Department.

As to his gripe about the practice and custom during the Reagan Administration of sending a strong message that “America stood with those who stand for basic human rights,” it seems like the congressman has a rather selective memory. We may have been doing that in the Soviet Union, but didn’t we embraced an infamous human rights offender in Asia?  While visiting Ferdinand Marcos, the Filipino dictator, didn’t Reagan’s vice president, George H.W. Bush, toasted Marcos’ “adherence to democratic principles?” How quickly we forget our best moments in diplomacy.

As to Congressman Wolf’s complaint about the handling of the case of Dr. Nguyen Quoc Quan, a Vietanmese-American democracy activist and U.S. citizen who is presently being held by the Vietnamese government — for an elected official it shows a limited understanding of what our embassy can and cannot do for Americans in jail.

Dual nationals owe allegiance to both the United States and the foreign country. They are required to obey the laws of both countries. Either country has the right to enforce its laws, particularly if the person later travels there. The United States may view Dr. Quan as a dual national U.S. citizen, not prohibited under our laws, but the country of Vietnam may make no distinction about his dual nationality.

Dr Quan was reportedly arrested in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam on a trip on November 17, 2007 for preparing pro-democracy flyers. According to his Wikipedia entry, he brought in a Vietnamese translation of the book From Dictatorship to Democracy about nonviolent resistance. He stood trial in Vietnam on May 13, 2008 on charges of “terrorism” (those commies are creative) and was sentenced to 6 months in prison. He was eventually released on May 17, 2008 and returned to his home in California.

And in April 2012, Dr. Quan was again arrested at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Government officials did not confirm his arrest until five days later. He is reportedly once more, detained on charges of terrorism and for planning to “instigate a demonstration” during the anniversary of the Fall of Saigon.

News report in April indicate that the U.S. consulate in Vietnam has confirmed his arrest but that no formal charges have been filed and he has not been granted a lawyer.  Since his arrest, the US consulate was apparently able to visit him only once.

According to a 1994 agreement, U.S. citizens, even dual citizens, have the right to consular access if they were admitted into Vietnam as a U.S. citizen with their U.S. passport. If detained or arrested, advised that “U.S. citizens should insist upon contact with the U.S. Embassy or the U.S. Consulate General.”

The problem is the Government of Vietnam is generally slow to notify the embassy about arrests or to grant access to U.S. citizen prisoners, and it requires diplomatic notes to schedule prison visits. It also does not permit visits without a Vietnamese official being present and insists that all verbal exchanges take place in Vietnamese.

Since the immediate release of Dr. Quan after each arrest is really what the congressman is looking for, nothing that the US mission in Vietnam do will ever be good enough.  Perhaps it would be helpful if the State Department offers basic, no perks, no salary fellowship for our congressional representatives to work the visa line and the American Citizens Services units in the hell holes of the world.  Surely that would be an instructive experience.

Domani Spero

Officially In: Stephen D. Mull – from Foggy Bottom (S/ES) to Poland

On July 10, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Stephen D. Mull as the next Ambassador to the Republic of Poland. The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador Stephen D. Mull, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career-Minister, is Executive Secretary at the Department of State, a position he has held since June 2010.  Prior to this position, he was Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary for Political Affairs from 2008 to 2010, and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Political Military Affairs from 2006 to 2008.  From 2007 to 2008, he served concurrently as Acting Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs.  Ambassador Mull served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Lithuania from 2003 to 2006, and as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia from 2000 to 2003.  With over 30 years of service at the State Department, Ambassador Mull’s previous positions include: Deputy Executive Secretary (1998-2000); Director of the Office of Southern European Affairs (1997-1998); Political Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Poland (1993-1997); and Deputy Director of the State Department Operations Center (1991-1993).

Ambassador Mull received a B.S. from Georgetown University.

Secretary Clinton (right) and Ambassador Stephen D. Mull (center) at the U.S. Embassy London. Photo by SJ Mayhew via US Embassy London

If confirmed, Ambassador Mull would succeed political ambassador, Lee A. Feinstein who was appointed to Warsaw by President Obama in 2009.  Ambassador Feinstein issued a statement saying it has been “a tremendous honor and privilege to represent the United States in Poland during the past three years.”

“Living in Poland has been a great gift to my family and me.  While we are looking forward to returning home, Poland will always remain dear to us.”

“I am proud of what we have accomplished, and I remain committed to advancing our common security and prosperity, while I continue to serve in Warsaw and thereafter.

In March 2012, Secretary Clinton asked that ambassadors remain at their posts until either the Senate has confirmed a replacement or specific departure instructions are given.

Domani Spero

Related item:

July 10, 2012 | President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

Officially In: Walter North – from Egypt to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and the Republic of Vanuatu

On July 10, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Walter North as the next Ambassador to Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and the Republic of Vanuatu. The WH released the following brief bio:

Walter North, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Career-Minister, is currently the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director in Egypt.  Mr. North previously served as USAID Mission Director in Indonesia (2007-2011); India (2000-2004); and Zambia (1996-2000), as well as Deputy Mission Director in Ethiopia (1992-1996).  Posts at USAID’s Washington headquarters have included: Interim Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Africa (2006-2007); Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Policy and Program Coordination (2005-2006); and Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Asia and the Near East (2004-2005).   Before joining USAID in 1980, Mr. North was a project manager for the non-profit, humanitarian organization, CARE in India and Bangladesh, and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia.

He received a B.A. from Lawrence University, a J.D. from George Washington University Law School, and an M.P.A. from Harvard University.

Feb 19, 2009 | Secretary Clinton Walks Through walk through Petojo Utara Neighborhood in Jakarta with USAID Director, Mr. Walter North (left), and Mr. Irwansyah (center). [State Department photo]

If confirmed, Mr. North would succeed career FSO Teddy B. Taylorwho was appointed to Port Moresby in 2009.  *We never had a political appointee volunteer for a stint as chief of mission to our embassy in Papua New Guinea.

Domani Spero

* Correction:
Everett Bierman is listed an an FSO both in the Wikipedia list of US Ambassadors to Papua and in the State Department’s Office of the Historian’s list. I was working from those lists.

After a reader called our attention to this, we’ve located additional information that shows Ambassador Bierman was a political appointee. So we have at least one political appointee previously assigned to Papua New Guinea. Thanks M. for the correction!



Related item:
July 10, 2012 | President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts

Officially In: Dawn M. Liberi – from Libya to Burundi

On July 10, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Dawn M. Liberi as the next Ambassador to the Republic of Burundi. The WH released the following brief bio:

Dawn M. Liberi, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Career Minister, most recently served as the Senior Assistance Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.  From 2009 to 2011, she served as Coordinator for the Interagency Provincial Affairs Office at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul and as Senior Civilian Representative for the Combined Joint Task-Force 82 with the International Security Assistance Force Regional Command-East at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.  From 2006 to 2009, she was an Executive Civil-Military Counselor with USAID.  From 2005 to 2006, Ms. Liberi was the USAID Mission Director in Iraq.  She previously served as the USAID Mission Director in Nigeria (2002-2005) and Uganda (1998-2002).  Other assignments have included: USAID Associate Assistant Administrator in the Global Bureau, Population, Health and Nutrition Office (1994-1998); USAID Deputy Mission Director in Ghana (1992-1994); and Population, Health and Nutrition Technical Officer for USAID’s missions in Senegal and Niger from (1981-1987).

Ms. Liberi received a Bachelor’s Degree from Hampshire College and an M.P.H. from the University of California at Berkeley.

03 Jun 10, 9320C-006 | PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, poses with U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, the commander of Combined Joint Task Force-82, Dawn Liberi, the senior civilian representative for Regional Command East, and U.S. Army Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas R. Capel, the CJTF-82 command sergeant major, in front of a 9-foot segment of an I-beam that was once part of the World Trade Center. The unveiling of the beam was part of the Memorial Day ceremony May 31 at the RC-East command building at Bagram Airfield. (Photo by U.S. Army Sgt. Spencer J. Case, 304th Public Affairs Detachment)

If confirmed, Ms. Liberi would succeed Pamela J. H. Slutz, a career Foreign Service Officer, who was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to Burundi on November 2, 2009.  The embassy is currently headed by Sam Watson of Virginia, a career member of the Foreign Service who assumed the duties of Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in September, 2011 and is now serving as Charge d’Affaires a.i.

Domani Spero

Related item:

July 10, 2012 | President Obama Announces More Key Administration Posts