Secretary Kerry Makes Brief Stop at Mogadishu Airport, First Ever Secretary of State Visit to Somalia

Posted: 2:10 pm EDT
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On May 5, Secretary Kerry made a brief stop in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. He is the first Secretary of State ever to visit Somalia.  He met with Somalian leaders at the Mogadishu airport but did not go into town. State Department official told the press that this is due to “a huge, huge logistical and security challenge.”

“The last thing we need is something to happen when the Secretary is on the ground. And I don’t think we have the confidence of taking him out of – off the grounds of the airport…

[W]e’re making plans to make our presence more enduring in Somalia. As you know, we announced a new Foreign Service career ambassador for Somalia, and once that ambassador is on the ground, our office will continue to be here in Kenya. But once the ambassador is on the ground, we’re going to have a much more enduring TDY footing in Somalia. We’re going to be there much more regularly with a bit of a – a bit more larger footprint.

 

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Below is a quick recap of US-Somali relation via history.state.gov:

1960 | Somalia achieved its independence in 1960 with the union of Somalia, which had been under Italian administration as a United Nations trust territory, and Somaliland, which had been a British protectorate.

1960 | Diplomatic relations were established on July 1, 1960, when the U.S. Consulate General at Mogadiscio (now Mogadishu) was elevated to Embassy status, with Andrew G. Lynch as Chargé d’Affaires.

1969 | The Somali army launched a coup which brought Mohamed Siad Barre to power. Barre adopted socialism and became allied with the Soviet Union. The United States was thus wary of Somalia in the period immediately after the coup.

1977 |  Barre’s government became increasingly radical in foreign affairs, and in 1977 launched a war against Ethiopia in hopes of claiming their territory. Ethiopia received help from the Soviet Union during the war, and so Somalia began to accept assistance from the United States, giving a new level of stability to the U.S.-Somalia relationship.

1980s | Barre’s dictatorship favored members of his own clan. In the 1980s, Somalis in less favored clans began to chafe under the government’s rule. Barre’s ruthlessness could not suppress the opposition, which in 1990 began to unify against him.

1991 | After joining forces, the combined group of rebels drove Barre from Mogadishu in January 1991. No central government reemerged to take the place of the overthrown government, and the United States closed its embassy that same year, although the two countries never broke off diplomatic relations. The country descended into chaos, and a humanitarian crisis of staggering proportions began to unfold.

1991| The U.S. Embassy closed on January 5, 1991, and all U.S. personnel were withdrawn after the collapse of the central Somali government.

1992 | In December 1992, the United States began Operation Restore Hope. President George H.W. Bush authorized the dispatch of U.S. troops to Somalia to assist with famine relief as part of the larger United Nations effort.

A Marine sentry prepares to close the gate to the Joint Task Force Somalia headquarters during the multinational relief effort Operation Restore Hope. (Department of Defense/Joe Gawlowicz)

A Marine sentry prepares to close the gate to the Joint Task Force Somalia headquarters during the multinational relief effort Operation Restore Hope. (Department of Defense/Joe Gawlowicz)

1993 | On October 3, 1993 Somali warlord Muhammad Farah Aideed’s forces shot down two Black Hawk helicopters in a battle which lead to the deaths of 18 U.S. soldiers and hundreds of Somalis. The deaths turned the tide of public opinion in the United States. President Bill Clinton pulled U.S. troops out of combat four days later, and all U.S. troops left the country in March 1994.

See Battle of Mogadishu (1993)

1995 | The United Nations withdrew from Somalia in March 1995.

2013| The United States did not sever diplomatic relations with Somalia. Through the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, the United States maintained regular dialogue with transitional governments and other key stakeholders in Somalia, and after January 17, 2013, with the newly recognized central government of Somalia.

2015 | In February 2015, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Katherine S. Dhanani as first Ambassador to Somalia since 1991. If confirmed, Ms. Dhanani will lead the U.S. Mission to Somalia but will be physically based at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. See President Obama Nominates FSO Katherine S. Dhanani as First Ambassador to Somalia Since 1991.

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FSO Robyn McCutcheon: A proud woman of transgender experience serving her country

Posted: 12:13 EDT
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In 2012, we wrote about FSO Robyn Ann Jane Alice McCutcheon, the first transgender diplomat serving in the State Department. Prior to joining State, Robyn worked for a NASA contractor where she was on the Hubble project before it was officially named after American astronomer Edwin Hubble.  See What Do Uranium and a Transgender Foreign Service Officer Have in Common?

Robyn has served in the last ten years in Washington, Russia, Uzbekistan, Romania, and Kazakhstan.  Her journey had not been easy.  “It included failed transition attempts, a week in a psychiatric ward and, more than anything else, years and decades of deep hiding and attempts to make it go away.”  She writes“I’m writing here because I have a debt to pay.”  Her story is one with a happy ending and we are  very pleased to see her as part of NYT’s Transgender Today series that just launched.

Via NYT’s Transgender Today series.

A message from Robyn McCutcheon, a trans* woman serving as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State who transitioned openly while serving overseas at the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest, Romania, in 2011. (Part of the N.Y. Times Series, “Transgender Today,” at nytimes.com/trans-today.)

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Gayle Smith: From National Security Council to USAID Administrator

Posted: 12:10 am EDT
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On April 30, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Gayle Smith as the next USAID Administrator:

 “Today, I am proud to nominate Gayle E. Smith as our next Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).  I’ve worked closely with Gayle for nearly a decade, and for the past six years Gayle has served as a senior leader on international development, humanitarian crisis response, and democracy issues on my National Security Council staff.  Gayle’s energy and passion have been instrumental in guiding America’s international development policy, responding to a record number of humanitarian crises worldwide, and ensuring that development remains at the forefront of the national security agenda at a time when USAID is more indispensable than ever.  Gayle has my full confidence and I have no doubt that she will prove to be an outstanding leader for the tireless men and women of USAID as they work to improve lives around the world. I urge the Senate to act quickly on this nomination.”

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Click here for a discussion on Africa via CSPAN featuring Ms. Smith, and Howard French, a veteran journalist and author, who reported from Africa for several years.

The WH released the following brief bio:

Gayle E. Smith, Nominee for Administrator, United States Agency for International Development 
Gayle E. Smith is Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Development and Democracy on the National Security Council staff, a position she has held since 2009, with responsibility for global development, democracy, and humanitarian assistance issues.  In her capacity as Senior Director, she has coordinated the first-ever Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, led the Administration’s work on global health, overseen the creation of Presidential initiatives including Feed the Future, Power Africa, the Global Health Security Agenda, and the Open Government Partnership, and helped coordinate U.S. government responses to more than 15 major humanitarian crises around the world.  Prior to joining the Administration, Ms. Smith was a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, where she led the Sustainable Security Project and co-founded the ENOUGH Project and the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.  Ms. Smith also served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council from 1998 to 2001 and as Advisor to the Chief of Staff and Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development from 1994 to 1998.  Ms. Smith previously lived and worked in Africa for almost 20 years, where she was a journalist and worked for non-governmental relief and development organizations.  Ms. Smith received a B.A. from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

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US Embassy Kenya: August 7 Memorial Park Gets Back to Back Visitors

Posted: 12:01 am EDT
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