March 2, 3-6 pm: @StateDept Hosts World Wildlife Day Event and Building Projection Show

Posted: 4:17 pm EDT
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Via State/OES:

On Wednesday, March 2, 2016 at 3:00 p.m. Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Catherine A. Novelli will host “Voices for the Wild: from Inspiration to Action on Combating Wildlife Trafficking” to celebrate World Wildlife Day. The event will convene prominent filmmakers, producers, artists, and other wildlife storytellers for a panel discussion focusing on strategies for engaging the public in combating illegal trade in wildlife. The discussion will include a sneak preview of the first Annual Progress Assessment of the U.S. National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking, an interagency report that will officially be released on March 3.
[…]
The event will conclude with – a first for the State Department – projected images of wildlife, including many threatened species, on the Harry S. Truman building’s C Street façade. The visual event is in partnership with Discovery Communications, Vulcan Productions, and the documentary film Racing Extinction. The goal is to raise awareness of, and spur action on the global threat of wildlife trafficking. Members of the public are able to view the projection show starting at 6:20 p.m. at 22nd Street in front of the State Department.

Read more here: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2016/02/253795.htm

 

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“The U.S. mission engages many consuls” — indeed, but holy moly guacamole!

Posted: 3: 48 pm EDT
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Via state.gov, March 1, 2016:

QUESTION: Right. Excuse me. Can I just start on the Pakistan attack for a second? You mentioned just now and then in your statement earlier that these – the people who were killed were employees of the U.S. mission in Pakistan. The Secretary in his comments had said that they worked for the consulate in Peshawar. Is that not correct?

MR KIRBY: My – well, both are true, as you know.

QUESTION: Right. I understand that, but —

MR KIRBY: I mean, the U.S. mission engages many consuls.

QUESTION: — that was a little bit more specific than —

MR KIRBY: Yeah, the Secretary was accurate, certainly, that —

QUESTION: Okay. So they – it’s not that they were working for the embassy in Islamabad or in Karachi?

MR KIRBY: As I understand it, they were working locally there at the consulate.

QUESTION: And do you – I realize it’s early on and you still don’t know all the details, but do you have any indication if – were they the targets of this IED, or was it just the convoy itself that was the —

MR KIRBY: Yeah, it’s unclear. And we’ve seen reports of an IED. I’m not able to actually confirm that that was the tool that caused the deaths. Could very well be. Again, we’re going to be looking into this with our Pakistani counterparts. I don’t know. Nobody has claimed responsibility at this point. We don’t know how premeditated or planned this was, and we certainly don’t have additional information about specific targets. We’re going to have to just keep working at this.

The U.S. mission engages many consuls? We’re a tad OCD so pardon us if we have a problem with basic stuff incorrectly explained. We expect the official podium, at a minimum, to understand the basic blocks under the State Department.

A consul is an official agent  sent by a state to reside in a foreign territory to assist and see  to the general protection of its nationals. In the Foreign Service, appointment and assignment commissions may be granted by the President (subsequent to appointment as consular officer) for (1) Consul General; (2) Consul; and (3) Vice Consul. Those members whose assignments abroad do not involve consular activities will not normally be given a consular title and, consequently, they do not have authority to perform those consular functions which require consular recognition by the receiving government or which are recognized by domestic law of the states in the United States (see 3 FAH-1 H-2432.2-2).

So not all embassy or consulate employees are consuls, period. These Peshawar employees were known in the old days as FSNs or Foreign Service Nationals. The name was later changed to LES or locally employed staff (whose bright idea was that to call your employees less?). Locally Employed Staff (LE Staff) are foreign nationals and legally resident U.S. citizens employed at a Foreign Service post abroad by a U.S. Government agency that is under Chief of Mission authority. U.S. embassies do not have local employees working as U.S. consuls.

The U.S. Mission in Pakistan includes the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad and its consular offices, also called “constituent posts.” They are located in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar and are all designated as U.S. Consulates General.

Somebody please help the official spox get the details right because …. what Steve Jobs said about the details and it’s the spokesman’s first duty not to be taken by surprise.

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USCG Peshawar: Local Employees Faisal Khan and Abid Shah Killed in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas

Posted: 4:12 am EDT
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On March 1, we woke up to a report that two locally employed staff of the U.S. Consulate General in Peshawar, Pakistan were killed in Pakistan’s FATA area.  There were very few details. It looks like the source of the report was Secretary Kerry who talked about the casualties during his Remarks at the Strong Cities Network International Visitors Leadership Program for Municipal Leaders and Countering Violence Extremism Experts Event in Washington, DC.

The news nugget was in the 27th paragraph of his prepared speech at the CVE event:

I’ll tell you something, I’m always stunned by it. I mean, just this morning I woke up to the news that we’ve lost two local employees in Peshawar who work with our consulate there, who were going out on a effort to eradicate narcotics fields. And an IED exploded and several were lost and a few of the soldiers who were there to guard them also. Think about that.

We went looking for an official statement at state.gov and at U.S. Embassy Islamabad and its three constituent posts but there was none available.

We sent an email to the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad to see if the mission has any other details to share, but as of this writing we have not heard anything back.

Later on March 1, state.gov put out an official statement of the incident:

Earlier today, I learned that two locally employed staff with the U.S. Mission in Pakistan were brutally murdered in an attack against a Government of Pakistan Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) convoy in Ambar tehsil, Mohmand Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan.

On behalf of the Department of State, I extend my heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of these brave individuals. I know nothing we say can adequately assuage their grief, but they should know we are thinking of them and share their profound sense of loss.

This senseless attack is a compelling reminder of the risk taken every day by our diplomats and the local staff around the world who make diplomacy possible. It also is a testimony to the courage and commitment shown by both Americans and Pakistanis who struggle to combat the scourge of terrorism and build a more stable, secure, and prosperous future for Pakistan. We have offered our assistance to the government of the region in investigating the incident and bringing the perpetrators to justice.

The Department of State holds in the highest regard all our host country colleagues who serve in our missions around the world. These men and women choose a life of service to improve the lives of their families and citizens and are essential to helping implement our goal of promoting shared prosperity and values. They are our friends, our teachers, and our guardians, and we are profoundly grateful for the sacrifices they make every day.

 

The New York Times identified the two employees as Faisal Khan, an “anti-narcotics official,” and Abid Shah, a driver employed by the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.  They were reportedly killed when the bomb detonated as their convoy was traveling in the Mohmand tribal region. Four other people, including two Pakistani security officials, were wounded. The anti-narcotics team had been reviewing poppy eradication efforts in the area.  According to the NYT, Jamaat-e-Ahrar, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Express Tribune identified Faisal Khan as a project development specialist for the consulate; other local media has identified the casualties as employees of USAID.

State/INL has the following country program in Pakistan (INL/AP):

INL and the Government of Pakistan have collaborated on counternarcotics (CN) activities since the 1980s. INL’s counternarcotics portfolio includes training and operational support to law enforcement agencies as well as crop control and demand reduction projects implemented through local channels. Pakistan’s CN efforts are led by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) under the Ministry of Narcotics Control, but also include several other law enforcement agencies such as the Frontier Corps- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Frontier Corps – Baluchistan as well as the Home Departments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces.

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An Embarrassing Renewal Mix-Up? Which Passport Still Has The Points Guy’s Photograph?

Posted: 1:52 am EDT
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This story via The Points Guy:

[O]n the bright side, I did need to get my passport renewed anyway so no big loss, right? Wrong. A few weeks later, my passport is delivered. Wait, let me rephrase that: My information is displayed on my passport, but not my face. I may be blond haired and blue eyed, but this girl in the picture was not me.
[…]
I spent the next few days calling and calling the National Passport Information Center trying to reach an operator that will take my story seriously. No one has ever heard of this happening before, no one believes me and asking “Are you sure?” really doesn’t do much good. Am I sure that this photo is not of my face? Yes I am.

After a week, I ended up going to speak to someone in person at the Connecticut Passport Agency in the hopes that someone there would be able to understand the situation and help me correct it. After going through an airport-like security system and having to explain why I was there, I was finally sent upstairs and eventually passed off from one employee to another since, spoiler alert, they don’t believe me either, even with passport in hand. The last woman looked on the computer, found not a single trace of this other girl’s face and called her supervisor, then her supervisor’s supervisor — all while looking at me like I had five heads.

Read more:

Passport processing is done by people so human error is part of a system where mistakes can be minimized but cannot be completely eliminated. However, there has to be a better way to respond when something like this happens. We’ve been to one of these domestic passport agencies last year and it actually reminds us of the DMV. It was clear to us, at least at the site that we visited, that no one thought through the customer flow. You get an appointment via telephone, and then you show up  and fall in line to go into the building, fall in line to get through the door, check with the guard (like every single one before you) on where to go next, fall in line again to get a priority number, sit (if you can find a chair, otherwise stand) and wait, and a couple hours later your name is called to the window where you write a $90 check for expeditious processing (state.gov says expedited fee is $60).

In any case, we’re wondering, which passport still has The Points Guy’s photograph?

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