Political Cartoonists Around the World Take On #POTUSAbroad

Posted: 1:23 am ET
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Trump Nominates Erin Walsh to be Director General of the Foreign Commercial Service

Posted:1:08 am ET
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President Trump recently nominated Erin Walsh, a member of the Trump’s presidential transition team and part of the landing team at the State Department to be Assistant Secretary at the Department of Commerce and Director General of the Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) (seeTrump Transition: Additional Agency Landing Team Members For @StateDept).  Her bio posted on theantiquitiescoalition.org notes that she served previously as Senior Advisor in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs at the State Department (State/NEA). The White House released the following brief bio:

President Donald J. Trump today announced his intent to nominate Elizabeth Erin Walsh to the Department of Commerce.

If confirmed, Elizabeth Erin Walsh of the District of Columbia will serve as Assistant Secretary and Director General of the United States and Foreign Commercial Service, Department of Commerce. Ms. Walsh currently serves as Special Assistant to the President and Associate Director for Presidential Personnel. She has had an extensive career in the international arena in both the private and public sectors. Ms. Walsh has served more than 12 years in the Federal Government, including at the Department of State, U.S. Mission to the United Nations, and the Department of Energy. She also worked at the United Nations, serving 18 months in Bosnia, during the war. At the Department of State, Ms. Walsh was a senior advisor in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. Ms. Walsh has spent 12 years in the private sector at Cisco and Goldman Sachs. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Government and International Relations from Georgetown University and a Master of Science degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

 

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SFRC Clears Scott P. Brown’s Nomination to be Ambassador to New Zealand

Posted: 12:51 am ET
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On May 17, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) held a confirmation hearing for Scott Brown’s nomination to be  U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as U.S. Ambassador to The Independent State Of Samoa.  The prepared testimony as well as the video of the hearing is available to download here.

On May 25, the SFRC cleared the former senator’s nomination which will now go to the full Senate for a vote.

Below is the Certificate of Demonstrated Competence prepared for the SFRC and made available by the State Department:

SUBJECT: Ambassadorial Nomination: Certificate of Demonstrated Competence — Foreign Service

Act, Section 304(a)(4)

POST: New Zealand and Independent State of Samoa

CANDIDATE: Scott Philip Brown

Scott P. Brown is a prominent politician, political analyst, and attorney. He has more than 30 years in public service, most recently serving as a United States Senator for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He was a member of the Armed Services, the Homeland Security and Government Affairs, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and the Veterans’ Affairs Committees. He served as both an enlisted man and as an officer in the Massachusetts and Maryland National Guard. He retired as a Colonel after 35 years of service, the last four of which were at the Pentagon. Currently, while maintaining his law practice he is also a contracted contributor and analyst for Fox National News. He travels extensively speaking before colleges, businesses, trade associations, and financial and government advocacy groups globally. Senator Brown’s extensive experience in municipal, state, and federal government, his military leadership positions, business activities, and his employment for more than 30 years as an attorney, coupled with his many philanthropic endeavors, make him very well-qualified to serve as Ambassador to New Zealand and the Independent State of Samoa.

Senator Brown worked as an attorney for Nixon Peabody, LLP, Boston, MA (2013-14). He served on the Board of Directors and as an Advisor to Kadant, Inc., Westford, MA (2013- 2015) and as an advisor to 1st Alliance Lending, LLP, East Hartford, CT (2014-2015) . He also is an Advisor to SkyBridge Capital, New York, NY (since 2014) and to Ron Terwilliger Housing Foundation, Vienna, VA (since 2015). His businesses include managing S&G Realty, S&G Realty Ventures and S&G Media (since 2013). He was an Assessor (1987-1990) and Selectman (1994-1998) for the Town of Wrentham, MA. He served as Massachusetts State Representative for the 9th Norfolk District (1998-2005) and as State Senator for the Norfolk, Bristol, and Middlesex District (2005-2010).

He earned a B.A. from Tufts University, Medford, MA (1981) and a J.D. from Boston College Law School, Newton Centre, MA (1985). He has Honorary Doctorates from Lasell College (Humanitarian Letters) and Nichols College (Public Administration).

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Former FSO Peter Van Buren Returns With Hooper’s War

Posted: 11:24 pm PT
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Former Foreign Service officer Peter Van Buren wrote We Meant Well and Ghosts of Tom Joad. He is back with a third novel Hooper’s War.  The author writes that while the story in Hooper’s War is set in WWII Japan, the point of the bigger story here is aimed dead-center at the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The men and women in Hooper confront the complex ethical decisions of war, torture, drone-like killings, and the aftermath of moral injury and PTSD. This is an antiwar novel for people who enjoy a good war story — think Catch-22. Sometimes funny, sometimes deadly serious.”

Ann Wright, U.S. Army Reserve Colonel and former U.S. diplomat has this to day say about the book:

“Hooper’s War is a classic war story of blood and guts spilled in Japan during WWII but with contemporary meanings. Told by both a young American lieutenant and a young Japanese soldier, Van Buren writes of the inevitable questioning of what wars do to those who fight. ‘This shit doesn’t end when the war does, it only ends when we do.’ ‘Garner is likely to just be insane for the rest of his life, mind torn apart and all that. His body’s in terrific shape, not a scratch. But the question isn’t so much why Private Garner is screaming. It’s why we aren’t, Lieutenant.’

‘Besides, Garner went insane because of what he saw in Kyoto. Curing him means I’d have to convince him seeing the burned children he’s shouting about was not a reason to be insane.’ These are commentaries echoed seventy-five years later by our young soldiers with PTSD from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.”

Below is an excerpt courtesy of Amazon Preview:

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POTUS Abroad: Saudi Arabia, Israel, Vatican, Belgium (NATO), Italy (G-7)

Posted: 11:21 pm PT
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Saudi Arabia May 20–22

Israel May 22–23

Vatican May 24

 

Brussels May 24–25

Italy May 25–27

Bonus tweet!

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Marking #MemorialDay 2017 Around the Foreign Service

Posted: 10:26 pm PT
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U.S. Embassy Brussels, Belgium

U.S. Embassy The Hague, the Netherlands

U.S. Embassy Paris, France

U.S. Embassy Kolonia, Micronesia

U.S. Embassy Manila, Philippines

U.S. Embassy Wellington, New Zealand

U.S. Embassy Montevideo, Uruguay

U.S. Consulate Halifax, Canada

U.S. Embassy Panama City, Panama

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#ThrowbackThursday: Secretary of State Addresses Reporters in Saudi Arabia

Posted: 5:35 pm PT
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Via state.gov

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, joined by Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, addresses reporters following a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council member nations on January 23, 2016, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. [State Department Photo/Public Domain]

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So who told Congress the real story about the deadly force incidents in Honduras in 2012? #OperationAnvil

Posted: 4:32 am ET
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The joint report by State/OIG and DOJ/OIG concerns three deadly force incidents in Honduras that occurred in 2012.   Four people were killed (including two pregnant women) and four others were injured after a helicopter with DEA personnel confused cargo in a passenger boat for bales of drugs and opened fire.  No evidence of narcotics was ever found on the passenger boat. In a second incident, a suspect was killed in a firefight that did not actually happen, and in a third incident that involved a plane crash, a Honduran police officer planted a gun in evidence and reported it as a weapon found at the scene.

The 424-page report provides in great detail what happened during the three incidents and the response/actions made by DEA, State/INL, State/WHA, the US Embassy in Honduras, and the stories officials gave to the Congress and the public about the incidents.

The report says that “DEA officials also did not disclose the existence or results of the video enhancement and analysis by the DS video analyst who found no evidence indicative of gunfire from the passenger boat. Moreover, DEA continued to inaccurately and incompletely characterize its role in Operation Anvil as being supportive and advisory only.”

State Department briefers also “never informed Congress of the DS investigations, despite numerous questions from the Senate Appropriations staff regarding whether State planned to investigate the shooting incidents.”

State Department officials never informed Congress of the DS investigation, including the video analysis, which could have contradicted prior DEA assertions.

The US Embassy in Honduras had received a report from the TRT officer dated July 3, 2012 which stated that the pilot “died instantly.” But after the July 3 shooting, WHA and INL officials developed press guidance that did acknowledge that DEA agents “were involved with the shooting,” but stated that “both suspects were given first aid and transported via helicopter to a secure location.” This guidance was repeated verbatim by State’s spokesperson during the daily press briefing on July 9, 2012.

Chief of Mission Authority Undermined

It is notable that then U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske authorized State’s Diplomatic Security (DS) to investigate the three incidents “after she became frustrated by her inability to obtain information from DEA.” The report says that DEA refused to share information with DS or provide access to relevant personnel.  DEA operates at the US Embassy in Honduras under Chief of Mission authority and it refused to provide the ambassador the information she required.

The situation was “exacerbated by senior INL officials who told DS that DS had no authority to investigate the incidents and refused to provide the helicopter crews for DS to interview.”

That’s the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

A subheading in the report says:

INL Failed to Comply with Chief of Mission Authority and Undermined the Ambassador’s Exercise of Her Authority

The report states that within a day of the Ambassador authorizing DS to investigate the June and July shooting incidents this happened:

INL Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Carol Perez began to raise objections to DS involvement. She communicated these objections to both DS and DEA officials, and although she told the OIGs that she did not intend to obstruct the investigation of the shooting incidents, INL’s support bolstered DEA’s unwillingness to cooperate.

There’s more:

AS Brownfield also raised internal and external objections to DS involvement. Immediately following the Ambassador’s request for DS involvement, he e-mailed Deputy Administrator Harrigan and offered to push the investigation “back into the box.” Likewise, in the September 2012 meeting between DS, INL, and WHA, AS Brownfield minimized the failure of DEA to cooperate and ascribed partial blame to DS.

State/OIG notes the following:

DEA’s refusal to follow the Ambassador’s written request for information, supported by INL, not only violated their duties under the Foreign Service Act, but prevented a complete and comprehensive understanding of the three incidents.

Excerpt via State/OIG and DOJ/OIG:

Operation Anvil began in April 2012 as a 90-day pilot program designed to disrupt drug transportation flights from South America to Honduras. Members of DEA’s Foreign-deployed Advisory and Support Team (FAST) and officers from a vetted unit of Honduran National Police known as the Tactical Response Team (TRT) comprised the ground team on the interdiction missions. The stated role of the FAST team members was to train and advise the TRT officers and assist them on these missions. State Department-owned helicopters provided transport and armed air support on the missions. The Honduran Air Force provided door gunners and, on certain missions, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) aircraft provided detection and surveillance capabilities. In addition, State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) provided operational support from the command center in Honduras.

May 11 incident:

DEA conducted internal shooting reviews regarding all three incidents. DEA initially decided not to review the May 11 incident because early reporting was that no DEA agent fired a weapon and because the Hondurans who fired were foreign law enforcement officers (LEOs). DEA changed its mind after a local Honduran police report asserted four people were killed (including two pregnant women) and four others were injured after a helicopter with DEA personnel confused cargo in a passenger boat for bales of drugs and opened fire…..No evidence of narcotics was ever found on the passenger boat.

June 23 incident:

Following this interdiction, DEA officials reported that during a search for suspected drug traffickers, FAST and TRT officers encountered an armed suspect who failed to drop his weapon after being ordered to comply and was shot and killed by a FAST agent. Similarly, State officials reported that a FAST agent shot and killed an armed suspect after the suspect attempted to draw a gun. However, the TRT report did not mention FAST’s use of deadly force and instead stated that multiple suspects fired at the TRT, and the TRT returned fire for a few minutes. According to FAST, this reported firefight did not happen.

July 3 incident:

TRT submitted two reports describing the July 3 events. The first made no mention of FAST’s use of deadly force and stated that the second pilot died from injuries sustained as a result of the plane crash. The second stated this pilot had aimed and fired a handgun at the officers, and the officers responded with deadly force. Both reports made reference to a 9mm handgun found at the scene, but FAST personnel told the OIGs they never saw a handgun at the scene. DEA officials told us they were advised that following the incident, a Honduran police officer planted a gun in evidence and reported it as a weapon found at the scene.

U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske authorized State’s Diplomatic Security (DS) to investigate the three incidents after she became frustrated by her inability to obtain information from DEA and concerned the Honduran investigation would not satisfy those interested in the May 11 incident. DEA refused to share information with DS or provide access to relevant personnel. DS continued its own investigations, and issued reports on all three incidents stating it was unable to make definitive or conclusive findings because of DEA’s refusal to provide access to evidence and what it described as shortcomings in the Honduran investigations.

  • Embassy officials told the OIGs that in the days after May 11, the U.S. Embassy tried to address questions raised about the possibility that innocent Hondurans had been killed in the operation. However, DEA Headquarters instructed DEA personnel not to provide information about the May 11 incident, and later the June 23 and July 3 incidents, to those outside DEA while DEA’s own internal reviews were in progress. Frustrated by her inability to obtain information from DEA, and by conflicting findings of the various Honduran investigations, Ambassador Kubiske approved DS investigations into all three shooting incidents. However, DEA refused to participate in joint investigations with DS, to make FAST members available to DS for interviews, or to share with DS the evidence DEA collected as part of its own investigations. Within State, INL was not supportive of the DS investigations and suggested as an alternative that DEA share its final report with State. DEA eventually agreed to provide a summary of its findings to the Ambassador and DS upon completion of its investigations.
  • DS nevertheless continued with its own investigations and issued reports on all three incidents. DS’s investigation of the May 11 incident included a review of the video footage by a DS video analyst who found no contrasts of light, which would be indicative of gunfire, originating from the passenger boat. However, DS was unable to make any “definitive findings” regarding the shooting because of DEA’s refusal to provide access to evidence. In addition, because INL did not allow DS access to evidence regarding the INL helicopters, the DS report did not address actions taken on the helicopters, such as whether there was an instruction to fire. DS also reached “inconclusive” findings on the June 23 and July 3 incidents, citing the lack of access to DEA evidence and shortcomings in the Honduran investigations.
  • The DOJ OIG concluded that DEA’s withholding of information from the U.S. Ambassador was inappropriate and unjustified. DEA’s presence in Honduras was at the pleasure and discretion of the Ambassador, and requesting and receiving information about the results of law enforcement operations involving American personnel, which the Ambassador herself personally authorized, was clearly within her supervisory responsibilities and authority as Chief of Mission.
  • DOJ OIG found that DEA’s obligations to DS were less clearly defined, and that this likely contributed to the dispute between DEA and DS over investigative jurisdiction. Although DEA told us that they resolved this dispute through an “agreement” with DS, this agreement appears to have been more of a unilateral expression of the limited terms to which DEA would agree, namely that DEA would provide a presentation and short, summary report to the Ambassador and the Embassy’s Regional Security Officer at the conclusion of the DEA internal review.
  • DOJ OIG also found that even though State officials pressured Honduras to conduct an investigation into the May 11 incident, DEA – with State’s concurrence – did not grant Honduran requests for information other than allowing them to watch the video, and specifically refused to provide DEA’s investigative report and the opportunity to question DEA personnel involved in the operation. DEA officials provided us with several reasons why DEA refused GOH access to DEA personnel, including the desire to insulate U.S. personnel from host nation jurisdiction and that multiple witness statements could harm U.S. judicial proceedings against Anvil drug traffickers. Even assuming the validity of these reasons, it was inconsistent for DEA and State to assert to congressional staff that GOH should investigate the May 11 incident but not give Honduran authorities the information necessary to conduct a thorough investigation.
  • DOJ OIG found that the lack of cooperation between DEA, State, and GOH during their respective investigations was closely related to the deficiencies in pre- operation planning for what would happen in the event of a critical incident. And even under DEA’s construct that each entity would investigate its own personnel, there was no mechanism for ensuring access to relevant information across the entities or for resolving or even identifying conflicting evidentiary or investigative gaps created by such a division of responsibility. The result was that no one did a comprehensive and thorough review of the May 11 incident.
  • It also was concerning that, in some instances, DEA officials described information favorable to DEA’s positions while omitting unfavorable information, such as video evidence of TRT officers shooting at people who had fallen or jumped into the water, the inconsistent TRT reporting and TRT gun-planting incident, and the results of a preliminary report from the Honduran National Police (described in Chapter Six) that made findings critical of law enforcement actions on May 11. DEA officials also did not disclose the existence or results of the video enhancement and analysis by the DS video analyst who found no evidence indicative of gunfire from the passenger boat. Moreover, DEA continued to inaccurately and incompletely characterize its role in Operation Anvil as being supportive and advisory only.
  • In addition, DEA officials told us that following the July 3 interdiction, a Honduran officer planted a gun into evidence and reported it as a weapon found at the shooting scene. Although the gun-planting report reached senior DEA officials, no steps were taken to address it other than ensuring that DEA did not rely heavily on TRT information to support any U.S. prosecutions.

State/OIG:

State OIG concluded that DEA failed to comply with the Chief of Mission authority granted to Ambassador Kubiske. Longstanding executive orders direct executive branch employees in a host country to comply with the direction of the Ambassador, who is the President’s personal representative to the host nation government. However, DEA repeatedly refused to comply with the Ambassador’s instructions to provide her and DS with information regarding the three incidents. This conflict was exacerbated by senior INL officials who told DS that DS had no authority to investigate the incidents and refused to provide the helicopter crews for DS to interview.

State OIG also found that State officials made inaccurate and incomplete statements to Congress and the public regarding Operation Anvil, including representations that it was a Honduran-led operation, which these officials knew to be inconsistent with how the operation actually proceeded. In addition, State officials never informed Congress of the DS investigation, despite numerous questions about whether the United States would conduct an investigation of the deadly force incidents.

INL Failed to Comply with Chief of Mission Authority and Undermined the Ambassador’s Exercise of Her Authority

  • As a bureau within the Department of State, INL should understand the importance of Chief of Mission authority. However, INL senior officials repeatedly undermined Ambassador Kubiske’s authority and failed to cooperate with the investigations she authorized.
  • Within a day of the Ambassador authorizing DS to investigate the June and July shooting incidents, INL Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Carol Perez began to raise objections to DS involvement. She communicated these objections to both DS and DEA officials, and although she told the OIGs that she did not intend to obstruct the investigation of the shooting incidents, INL’s support bolstered DEA’s unwillingness to cooperate.
  • Likewise, AS Brownfield also raised internal and external objections to DS involvement. Immediately following the Ambassador’s request for DS involvement, he e-mailed Deputy Administrator Harrigan and offered to push the investigation “back into the box.” Likewise, in the September 2012 meeting between DS, INL, and WHA, AS Brownfield minimized the failure of DEA to cooperate and ascribed partial blame to DS.
  • In addition, INL failed to comply with Chief of Mission authority by refusing to assist DS in its attempt to interview the helicopter crews. As noted in Chapter Ten, the SID agent requested to speak with the pilots and gunners, but INL denied this request. The request was forwarded up to the highest levels of INL, and AS Brownfield instructed his staff not to cooperate. Although he recognized that the request fell under the Chief of Mission authority, he instructed that INL was not to produce the crew for DS to interview. Senior DS and INL officials also discussed the request at a September 2012 meeting, but AS Brownfield remained opposed to providing DS access to the crews. In fact, INL was not even focused on the circumstances of the helicopter opening fire on the passenger boat, because they believed the helicopter fire was suppressive only and not intended as a use of deadly force.
  • The failure of DEA and INL to provide any cooperation with the investigation requested by the Ambassador resulted in the inability of the SID Agent to complete his investigations and develop conclusive findings regarding the three shooting incidents. DEA’s refusal to follow the Ambassador’s written request for information, supported by INL, not only violated their duties under the Foreign Service Act, but prevented a complete and comprehensive understanding of the three incidents. Ambassador Kubiske and other State officials had grave concerns over the methodology and findings of the various Honduran investigations, so she requested the DS investigation to better understand what could quickly become a diplomatic problem. However, her intentions were never realized because of the failure of DEA and INL to abide by Chief of Mission authority.

Statements to Congress

State briefers also never informed Congress of the DS investigations, despite numerous questions from the Senate Appropriations staff regarding whether State planned to investigate the shooting incidents. According to Wells, he was reluctant to inform the staff of the DS investigation and did not offer DS officials to brief the staff because Congress may have come to realize the conflict between DS and DEA. Therefore, Congress was never informed of the investigative work performed by DS, including the video analysis, which seemed to challenge DEA’s previous statements to Congress that the passenger boat had fired upon the pipante.

Statements to the Public

  • On several occasions, State officials prepared press guidance to be used to discuss Operation Anvil and the shooting incidents with media and public audiences. However, these talking points contained information that was not accurate. For example, INL and WHA officials prepared press guidance immediately after the May 11 incident that repeatedly referred to DEA acting only in a “supporting” and “advisory” role with the “highly trained” Honduran law enforcement officers in the lead. These statements were repeated by State’s spokesperson in the daily press briefing on May 17, 2012. Similarly, Embassy officials prepared talking points for the Ambassador’s interview with the Associated Press on May 25, 2012 that stated that the DEA agents were involved in “a supporting, advisory role only” with “highly trained and vetted” Honduran officers “who operate with advice from U.S. Government law enforcement agents.” As noted above, both INL and WHA officials were aware of the limitations of the TRT and that they were not capable of leading such operations.
  • After the July 3 shooting, WHA and INL officials developed press guidance that did acknowledge that DEA agents “were involved with the shooting,” but stated that “both suspects were given first aid and transported via helicopter to a secure location.” This guidance was repeated verbatim by State’s spokesperson during the daily press briefing on July 9, 2012.  As noted in Chapter Eight, this statement was inaccurate. All three FAST medics told the OIGs that the pilot was already dead when they first assessed him at the scene and that they focused their attention to the other pilot who had significant injuries from the crash. This questionable statement may have originated from the INL Senior Aviation Advisor or the Delta Team Leader, and the INL and WHA officials who drafted and approved the press guidance may not have realized it was incorrect, although the Embassy had received a report from the TRT officer dated July 3, 2012 which stated that the pilot “died instantly.”
  • State officials failed on numerous occasions to provide accurate information to Congress and the public regarding Operation Anvil and the three shooting incidents. In an effort to avoid highlighting DEA’s failure to cooperate with the DS investigation, State officials never informed Congress of the DS investigation, including the video analysis, which could have contradicted prior DEA assertions. These incomplete and inaccurate statements have contributed to the continued uncertainty regarding what actually occurred during the three shooting incidents.

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Amb.Peter Bodde and AFRICOM Gen. Thomas Waldhauser Make First Libya Visit Since 2014

Posted: 3:03 am ET
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The U.S. ambassador to Libya Peter Bodde (based in Tunisia) and AFRICOM’s General Thomas Waldhauser (based in Germany) flew into Tripoli for two hours to meet with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. This is reportedly the first visit by a U.S. diplomat since post closure in July 2014 (see State Dept Suspends All Embassy Operations in Libya, Relocates Staff Under Armed EscortsUS Embassy Libya Evacuation of July 26, 2014 – In Photos).

Ambassador Bodde reiterated U.S. support for Libya “as a unified, secure, and prosperous state under a government that can serve the Libyan people”  and “applaud the ongoing Libyan dialogue on how to form a government that has broad acceptance across Libya, within the framework of the Skhirat Agreement.”   Ambassador Bodde also thanked Prime Minister al-Sarraj for “his ongoing strong partnership in combating ISIS and other UN-designated terrorist groups, and we stand with all Libyans in combating terrorism anywhere in Libya.”

 

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All In: Tillerson on Trump’s FY2018 @StateDept/@USAID Budget

Posted: 2:44 am ET
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We previously blogged about President Trumps FY2018 budget request (see FY2018 Trump Budget Word Cloud: Cuts, Reduction, Elimination) and #TrumpBudget Proposal FY2018: Most Volatile Geographic Bureaus Get the Deepest Cuts).

On May 23, President Trump sent his first budget request and FY2018 proposal for 4.1 trillion to Congress. The 32% cut to the international affairs budget has been called irresponsible.  Senator Lindsey Graham warns that the Trump budget cuts to the State Department is “a lot of Benghazis in the making.” Meanwhile, 225 corporate executives sent a letter to Secretary Tillerson on Monday arguing that “America’s diplomats and development experts help build and open new markets for U.S. exports by doing what only government can do: fight corruption, strengthen the rule of law, and promote host country leadership to create the enabling environment for private investment.” The business executives note the importance of U.S. international affairs programs to boost their “exports abroad and jobs here at home” and urged Secretary Tillerson’s support for a strong International Affairs Budget for Fiscal Year 2018.

While it is doubtful that Congress will support the Trump proposal in its current form, we suspect that the Administration will come back next year and every year thereafter for additional bites.  After all the border wall is estimated to cost anywhere between $21B-$67B and for FY18, the Trump Administration has requested $1.6 billion for “32 miles of new border wall construction, 28 miles of levee wall along the Rio Grande Valley and 14 miles of new border wall system that will replace existing secondary fence in the San Diego Sector…” on the 1,933-mile U.S.-Mexico border. And since the president has already kicked off his 2020 re-election campaign, we can be sure that the noise about the border wall will remain in the news for the foreseeable future.

Important to note, however, that this is only a budget request and that the Congress is the branch that actually appropriates the funds. In March, the Trump Administration sought cuts to the State Department and USAID funding (see Trump Seeks Further Funding Cuts From @StateDept/@USAID, This Time From 2017 Budget).  In early May, Congress did not give in to the request and appropriated funds comparable to the previous administration requests but as pointed out here, this is just the beginning of the budget wars.

The Secretary of State who believed he has to earn President Trump’s confidence every day stepped up to the plate once more, and released a statement calling the proposed -32% budget for his agency  as “responsive to the realities of the world in the 21st century.”

Today, President Trump requested $37.6 billion for the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) budget in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. This budget request reflects the President’s “America First” agenda that prioritizes the well-being of Americans, bolsters U.S. national security, secures our borders, and advances U.S. economic interests.

This budget is responsive to the realities of the world in the 21st century, and ensures that the State Department and USAID can quickly adapt to an ever-changing international environment. Activities and programs supported in this budget will support our effort to defeat ISIS and other terrorist organizations and combat illegal migration and trafficking. This budget will also support our efforts to combat corruption and address threats to good governance, which helps level the playing field for American workers and businesses.

The FY 2018 budget supports the President’s commitment to make the U.S. government leaner and more accountable to the American taxpayer, while maximizing our diplomatic and engagement efforts, including with our international partners. As we advance the President’s foreign policy priorities, this budget will also help lay the foundation for a new era of global stability and American prosperity.

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