Yemen Non-Evacuation: Court Refuses to Second-Guess Discretionary Foreign Policy Decisions

Posted: 4:38 am ET

The State Department’s Yemen Crisis page notes that due to deteriorating situation, it suspended embassy operations on February 11, 2015, and U.S. Embassy Sana’a American staff were relocated out of the country.  “All consular services, routine and emergency, continue to be suspended until further notice. The Department notified the public of this move, and its impact on consular services, and urged U.S. citizens in Yemen to depart while commercial transportation was available.”

The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa went on mandatory evacuation in May 2011 (see US Embassy Yemen Now on Ordered Departure), and again in August 2013 (see US Embassy Yemen Now on Ordered Departure) and November 2014 (see US Embassy Yemen on Ordered Departure Once Again). In July 2014, the State Department issued a Travel Warning, see New Travel Warning for Yemen — Don’t Come; If In Country, Leave! But Some Can’t Leave).

See our other posts:

The case below was filed on April 9, 2015 by a Nora Ali Mobarez, a United States citizen residing in Yemen.  She was joined by “25 other people, all of whom are U.S. citizens or permanent residents with Yemeni connections” in filing a cases against the Secretaries of State and Defense and seeking a court order to “compel Defendants to comply with an alleged duty of the Executive Branch to provide a means of evacuation from Yemen for them or their relatives.”

Excerpt from the Memorandum of Opinion dated May 17, 2016 by Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia:

Plaintiff Nora Ali Mobarez, a United States citizen, is currently residing in the war-torn and conflict-ridden Republic of Yemen. (See Compl., ECF No. 2, ¶¶ 4, 55– 59.) Mobarez has joined with 25 other people, all of whom are U.S. citizens or permanent residents with Yemeni connections, to file the instant official-capacity complaint against the Secretary of the Department of State (“State”) and the Secretary of the Department of Defense (“DOD” and, collectively, “Defendants”). These plaintiffs seek a court order to compel Defendants to comply with an alleged duty of the Executive Branch to provide a means of evacuation from Yemen for them or their relatives. (See id. ¶¶ 3–24, 29–77.) Specifically, their complaint asserts that the United States has closed its embassy in Sana’a, Yemen, has evacuated embassy staff, and has removed Marines from the country, but that the U.S. government has yet to execute any plan to secure the safe removal of private American citizens. (See id. ¶¶ 34–36, 77.) According to Plaintiffs, Defendants’ forbearance violates the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. §§ 701–06, insofar as Defendants “have failed to provide through direct military assistance or contracting with commercial entities the necessary equipment, ships, airplanes, and other items that are available to Defendants to [e]nsure the security, safety, and well-being of United States citizens[,]” and have therefore “unlawfully withheld and/or unreasonably delayed agency action to which the Plaintiffs are entitled” and/or “have taken action that is arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion and not in accordance with law[.]” (Id. ¶ 81.)

Before this Court at present is Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss the instant complaint. (See Defs.’ Mot. to Dismiss (“Defs.’ Mot.”), ECF No. 8.) Defendants contend that Plaintiffs are wrong about the existence of any duty to evacuate them. (See Defs.’ Reply in Supp. of Defs.’ Mot. (“Reply”), ECF No. 12, at 6–8.)1 Furthermore, as a threshold matter, Defendants insist that legal claims such as the ones Plaintiffs bring here require the judiciary to second-guess the discretionary foreign- policy decisions of the Executive Branch, and thus, are nonjusticiable under the political-question doctrine. (See Defs.’ Mem. in Supp. of Defs.’ Mot. (“Defs.’ Mem.”), ECF No. 8-1, at 12–14.)

On March 31, 2016, this Court issued an order GRANTING Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ complaint. (See Order, ECF No. 13.) The instant Memorandum Opinion explains the Court’s reasons for that order. In short, the Court agrees with Defendants’ justiciability argument, and has therefore concluded that it lacks jurisdiction to entertain Plaintiffs’ complaint.
[…]
Plaintiffs have asked this Court, in no uncertain terms, to issue an order that compels the Executive Branch to conduct an evacuation of American citizens in Yemen. Not surprisingly, Defendants insist that any such order would impermissibly encroach upon the discretion that the Constitution affords to the political branches to conduct foreign affairs; therefore, prior to considering Defendants’ contention that Plaintiffs’ complaint fails to state a claim under the APA, this Court must first determine whether or not it has the authority to traverse the thicket of thorny foreign-policy issues that encompasses Plaintiffs’ allegations. Precedent in this area makes it crystal clear that federal courts cannot answer “political questions” that are presented to them in the guise of legal issues, see infra Part III.A., but identifying which claims qualify as nonjusticiable political questions—and which do not—can sometimes be a substantially less lucid endeavor. Not so here: as explained below, after considering the parties’ arguments and the applicable law regarding the boundaries of the political-question doctrine, this Court is confident that Plaintiffs’ claims fit well within the scope of the nonjusticiability principles that the Supreme Court and D.C. Circuit have long articulated. Accordingly, in its Order of March 31, 2016, the Court granted Defendants’ motion and dismissed Plaintiffs’ case.
[…]
It cannot be seriously disputed that “decision-making in the fields of foreign policy and national security is textually committed to the political branches of government.” Schneider, 412 F.3d at 194; see also id. at 194–95 (collecting the various explicit “[d]irect allocation[s]” in the Constitution of those responsibilities to the legislative and executive branches). And, indeed, Plaintiffs seek to have this Court question the Executive Branch’s discretionary decision to refrain from using military force to implement an evacuation under the circumstances described in the complaint, despite the fact that, per the Constitution, it is the President who, as head of the Executive Branch and “Commander in Chief[,]” U.S. Const. Art. II, § 2, decides whether and when to deploy military forces, not this Court. See El-Shifa, 607 F.3d at 842 (explaining that a claim “requiring [the court] to decide whether taking military action was wise” is a nonjusticiable “policy choice[] and value determination[]” (second and third alterations in original) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)).

Plaintiffs’ suggestion that the court-ordered remedy they seek could very well stop short of a direct mandate for military intervention (see Pls.’ Opp’n at 15 (asserting that “[t]his Court can order Defendants to [effectuate the evacuation] by simply directing the evacuation to happen and leaving it to Defendants to determine the means”)) makes no difference, as far as the political-question doctrine is concerned. Regardless, the clear basis for the complaint’s assertion that Plaintiffs are entitled to any relief at all is the contention that the Executive Branch has abused its discretion— in APA terms—in refusing to evacuate U.S. citizens from Yemen thus far (see, e.g., Compl. ¶ 81), and the Court’s evaluation of that contention would necessarily involve second-guessing the “wisdom” of these agencies’ discretionary determinations.
[…]
[T]he “strategic choices directing the nation’s foreign affairs are constitutionally committed to the political branches[,]” and once it becomes clear that a plaintiff wishes the courts to “reconsider the wisdom of discretionary foreign policy decisions[,]” the judicial inquiry must end.

Read the Memorandum of Opinion here (PDF) or read below:

 

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U.S. Mission Turkey Now on “Authorized Departure” For Family Members in Ankara and Istanbul

Posted: 2:08 am ET

 

The State Department updated its Travel Warning for Turkey on July 26 announcing the “authorized departure” of U.S. Mission Turkey family members from the US Embassy in Ankara and the Consulate General in Istanbul.

The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey. The U.S. Department of State is updating this Travel Warning to reflect the July 25, 2016, decision to authorize the voluntary departure of family members of employees posted to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey. The Department of State made this decision following the July 15 attempted coup and subsequent declaration by the Turkish government of a 90-day State of Emergency. The Department continues to monitor the effect of these developments on the overall security situation in the country and advises U.S. citizens to reconsider travel to Turkey at this time. During this period, U.S. citizens in Turkey may see an increase in police or military activities and restrictions on movement.

Read the updated warning here.

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The State Department has already extended its March 29, 2016 mandatory evacuation order for family members of U.S. Government personnel posted to the U.S. Consulate in Adana and family members of U.S. Government civilians in Izmir province through July 26, 2016.  We expect to hear further extension of that order now that the two other posts in the country are now on authorized departure  following the declaration of a 90-day State of Emergency. See @StateDept Extends “Ordered Departure” Status for Consulate Adana/Izmir Prov Through July 26, 2016.

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@StateDept Extends “Ordered Departure” Status for Consulate Adana/Izmir Prov Through July 26, 2016

Posted: 4:33 am ET

 

The State Department issued a new Travel Warning for Turkey:

  • The Department of State extended its March 29, 2016 ordered departure of family members of U.S. Government personnel posted to the U.S. Consulate in Adana and family members of U.S. Government civilians in Izmir province through July 26, 2016.  The Department of State terminated its March 29, 2016 ordered departure declaration for Mugla province. The U.S. Consulate in Adana remains open and will continue to provide all routine consular services.
  • U.S. Government personnel in Turkey remain subject to travel restrictions in the southeastern provinces of Hatay, Kilis, Gaziantep, Sanliurfa, Sirnak, Diyarbakir, Van, Siirt, Mus, Mardin, Batman, Bingol, Tunceli, Hakkari, Bitlis, and Elazig.  U.S. citizens should avoid areas in close proximity to the Syrian border.
  • U.S. government employees in Turkey are permitted to leave their residences and hotels, but advised to do so during daylight hours given calls for sustained pro-government rallies in public spaces and the possibility that demonstrations and protests could ensue or turn violent with little notice.
  • The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey and to avoid travel to southeastern Turkey.    In light of the July 15 coup attempt and its aftermath, we suggest U.S. citizens reconsider travel to Turkey at this time.

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U.S. Embassy Dhaka: Now on “Authorized Departure” For Family Members of USG Personnel

Posted: 3:39 am ET

On July 10, the State Department updated its Travel Warning for Bangladesh and announced the voluntary evacuation of family members of U.S. personnel posted to the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka:

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to consider carefully whether you need to travel to Bangladesh, in light of the latest attack in a series of extremist events.  Effective July 10, 2016, the Department of State authorized the voluntary departure of family members of U.S. government personnel posted to the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka.  The U.S. Embassy in Dhaka remains open and will provide all routine consular services.  The U.S. government assesses that the terrorist threat is real and credible.

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On July 1, 2016, attackers killed more than 20 people in a restaurant frequented by foreigners in Dhaka’s diplomatic enclave, including one U.S. citizen.  Other attacks continue to be carried out against religious minorities, bloggers, publishers, and security forces throughout the country.  Daesh (also referred to as ISIL, or ISIS) and Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) have publicly claimed credit for various attacks since September 2015.

U.S. citizens should take stringent security measures, remain vigilant, and be alert to local security developments.  Be aware that U.S. government officials and their families currently are not permitted to:

  • visit public establishments or places in Bangladesh
  • travel on foot, motorcycle, bicycle, rickshaw, or other uncovered means on public thoroughfares and sidewalks in Bangladesh
  • attend large gatherings in Bangladesh

Read the full announcement here.

 

Related posts:

 

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U.S. Embassy Juba: 47 Troops Ordered to South Sudan, 130 Pre-Positioned in Djibouti

Posted: 2:19 am PT

 

On July 13, President Obama informed Congress of the deployment of U.S. Armed Forces personnel to the U.S. Embassy in Juba, South Sudan.

In response to the deteriorating security situation in South Sudan, I have ordered the deployment of additional U.S. Armed Forces personnel to South Sudan to support the security of U.S. personnel, and our Embassy in Juba. The first of these additional personnel, approximately 47 individuals, arrived in South Sudan on July 12, 2016, supported by military aircraft. Although equipped for combat, these additional personnel are deployed for the purpose of protecting U.S. citizens and property. These deployed personnel will remain in South Sudan until the security situation becomes such that their presence is no longer needed. Additional U.S. Armed Forces, including approximately 130 military personnel currently pre-positioned in Djibouti, are prepared to provide support, as necessary, for the security of U.S. citizens and property, including our Embassy, in South Sudan.

On July 13, Embassy Juba also announced two charter flights that will depart Juba for Entebbe, Uganda on Thursday, July 14. Passengers are expected to make onward travel plans themselves. A security message issued previously notes that “seating is very limited”  and that the mission “cannot guarantee availability.”  Passengers are limited to one piece of luggage (20 kg/45 lbs) each.  Pets are not included in the charter flights.  Passengers who are not documented with a valid U.S. passport “will likely not be considered for boarding.”

 

Germany and the EU have completed the evacuation of its citizens on July 13.  The UK and India are in the process of also evacuating their citizens from South Sudan.

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US Embassy Juba: Two Charter Flights For U.S. Citizens to Depart on July 14

Posted: 1:11 pm ET

The U.S. Embassy in Juba sent an emergency message to U.S. citizens in South Sudan informing them on two charter flights departing from Juba to Entebbe (Uganda) on Thursday, July 14.

Evacuation Flights from Juba Beginning | July 13, 2016

The U.S. Embassy in Juba informs resident American citizens that two charter flights will be departing Juba to Entebbe on July 14. U.S. citizens wishing to depart on the first flight should arrive to the airport at 8:30 a.m. to be processed. U.S citizens wishing to depart on the second flight should arrive no later than 12:30 p.m. to be processed.

The U.S. Embassy will not collect money for this flight; however, all passengers will be required to complete and sign a DS-5528 promissory letter for the fare. The amount of the loan will be the cost of a full fare ticket from Juba to Entebbe (approximately USD250). You must arrange your own transportation to the airport and onward from Juba. Due to ongoing security concerns, please remain vigilant when moving about the city.

Notice to all passengers: (1) Bring a valid travel document (passport); (2) you are restricted to one small carryon; and (3) no pets will be allowed. The Embassy continues to monitor the situation and will update you as appropriate.

Read What the Department of State Can and Can’t Do in a Crisis.

 

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@StateDept Orders Departure of Non-Emergency Personnel From US Embassy #Juba, Canada Closes Embassy

Posted: 1:12 am ET
Updated 1:20 am ET

On July 10, the State Department issued a new Travel Warning against travel to South Sudan due to ongoing fighting, intercommunal violence, and violent crime.  It also announced the “ordered departure” of non-emergency personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Juba.  Post is headed by Ambassador Mary Catherine (Molly) Phee, a career diplomat who was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to South Sudan in July last year.

CIA Map

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Excerpt below:

The U.S. State Department warns U.S. citizens against travel to the Republic of South Sudan because of ongoing fighting, intercommunal violence, and violent crime.  On July 10, 2016, the Department of State ordered the departure of non-emergency personnel from US. Embassy Juba.  This replaces the Travel Warning dated December 31, 2015.

After clashes between government and opposition forces in Juba on July 7 and 8, general fighting broke out in Juba on July 10.  Since the signing of a peace agreement in August 2015 and the formation of the Transitional Government of National Unity in April 2016, instability has persisted nonetheless across the country.  This instability is exacerbated by intertribal and intercommunal violence, cattle raiding, economic uncertainty, and an increase in violent crime. Aid workers have been the targets of shootings, ambushes, assaults, harassment and robberies, some resulting in death.  Fighting that began on July 10 marked a sudden and serious deterioration in the security situation in the capital.

The risk of violent crime is high throughout South Sudan, including in Juba.  Due to the risk of carjacking and banditry, travel outside of Juba should be undertaken with a minimum of two vehicles and appropriate recovery and medical equipment in case of mechanical failure or other emergency.  All U.S. citizens should have evacuation plans that do not rely on U.S. government assistance, and should carry medical evacuation insurance.

Due to risks to civil aviation operating within or in the vicinity of South Sudan, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM). For further background information regarding FAA flight advisories and prohibitions for U.S. civil aviation, U.S. citizens should consult Federal Aviation Administration’s Prohibitions, Restrictions and Notices.

Read the full text of the warning here.

Meanwhile, CBCNews is reporting that the Canadian government has now closed its embassy in Juba “until further notice” and warned Canadians in the country to consider leaving as soon as it’s safe to do so.  “Be aware that the ability of Canadian officials to provide consular assistance in South Sudan is extremely limited. The situation in Juba is deteriorating,” reads a Global Affairs advisory sent to Canadian nationals in South Sudan. See more here.

A few news clips:

 

Related posts:

 

U.S. Embassy Bamako: Family Members on ‘Authorized Departure’ From Mali. Again.

Posted: 4:09 am ET

 

In December 2015, the U.S. Embassy in Mail went on “authorized departure” for non-emergency staff and family members.

On March 1, 2016, the “authorized departure” order was lifted.

On July 1, 2016, the State Department updated its Travel Warning for Mali with a notice of an FAA NOTAM for Mali and the authorized departure of embassy family members again:

The Department of State warns U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Mali of ongoing terrorist attacks and criminal violence in Mali. The security environment in Mali remains fluid, and the potential for attacks throughout the country, including in Bamako, remains high. Additionally, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has revised its advisory NOTAM for Mali advising U.S. civil aviation to avoid flying below 26,000 ft (FL260) over the airspace of Mali. This Travel Warning is being updated to notify U.S. citizens that on July 1, 2016, the Department of State ordered the departure of eligible family members 21 and younger and authorized the departure of their accompanying adult parents from the U.S. Embassy in Bamako.  This notice replaces the Travel Warning issued on April 21, 2016.

Violent extremist groups targeting foreigners, including al-Qa’ida in the Lands of Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Murabitoun, have claimed responsibility for multiple terrorist attacks in Mali over the past year, as well as kidnappings in Timbuktu and along the border with Burkina Faso.  Furthermore, violent extremist elements continue to target Malian security forces, resulting in attacks on Malian government outposts and base camps for The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

On March 21, 2016, heavily armed assailants attacked the European Union’s Training Mission (EUTM) headquarters and primary residence in the diplomatic enclave in Bamako.  Although no U.S. citizens were affected by the attack and no EUTM staffs were injured, one Malian security officer was shot and required extensive medical care. AQIM claimed responsibility for the attack.

On November 20, 2015, one U.S. citizen and 19 other foreigners were murdered when heavily armed assailants stormed the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako using gunfire and grenades.  AQIM and al-Murabitoun claimed responsibility for the attack.

Following the November 20, 2015 attacks on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako, the government of Mali increased its security presence in Bamako.  Roadblocks and random police checkpoints, especially between sundown and sun-up, are possible. U.S. government personnel are restricted from traveling outside the Bamako region, and may be subject to other restrictions, as security situations warrant.  U.S. citizens should consider taking similar precautions, are reminded to stay vigilant and aware of their surroundings, and exercise caution throughout the country, especially at night.

Read in full here.

Related posts:

 

 

DOD Talks About Military Families Ordered Out of Turkey, @StateDept Remains Mum Except — Bunnies!

Posted: 3:07 am ET

 

Meanwhile — information on Foreign Service families evacuated from U.S. Consulate Adana is hard to come by.

We don’t know at this point how many Foreign Service family members and pets were evacuated out of southern Turkey under last week’s “ordered departure” announcement (the number is very small in our guesstimate).  Or whether they were evacuated to other posts in Turkey, or returned to the United States (designated safehaven for eligible family members is the United States — anywhere in the 50 United States or the District of Columbia).

The ordered departure was approved initially for 30 days but will remain in effect until terminated by the State and Defense departments (by law, an evacuation cannot last longer than 180 days).  The DOD spoxes have been forthcoming with evacuation information on military families and pets, whereas the State Department spokesperson got tangled about bunnies at the Daily Press Briefing. DOD has also posted the State Department’s ordered departure unclassified cable for Adana here (PDF); the document is not publicly available on state.gov.

 

Related items:

State Department: Ordered Departure from Adana
ORDERED DEPARTURE FROM Adana, Evacuation Authority And Department Policy

Ordered Departure – Adana, Izmir, and Mugla, Turkey
The Department of State (DOS) has approved an ordered departure from Adana, Izmir Province, and Mugla Province, Turkey, and designated the United States as the safe haven for DOS-eligible family members (EFMs).

Parent Letter for Turkey Departure
As you prepare to leave as a result of the Department of State’s Ordered Departure from Incirlik/Adana, Turkey, continuing your child’s education must be a top priority upon arrival at your safe haven.

Allowances to a safe haven (DTMO)
EFMs of DoD military personnel will be processed for safe haven allowances in accordance with Joint Travel Regulations (JTR), Chapter 6, Part Al.

 

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DOD to Evacuate 670 Military Dependents, 287 Pets From Turkey — How Many @StateDept Evacuees?

Posted: 2:16 am ET

 

 

Via DPB of March 29, 2016:

QUESTION: All right. Okay. Moving on just to the announcement from you guys on the – and the DOD today on Turkey and the ordered departures. Your colleague at the Pentagon has spent the last several minutes answering – or saying that there was no specific threat that has led to this and that it was just decided out of an abundance of caution that you should go ahead and – my question is: If there was no specific threat, why do it now?

MR KIRBY: That’s a great question. So my colleague is right. The decision to do this, first of all, wasn’t taken lightly. It was done after careful thought and consideration and interagency coordination, I might add. And I think it’s very much a result of our ongoing assessment of security conditions there in Turkey and in recognition of the threat environment in Adana, specifically in southeastern Turkey from a regional perspective. So the why now is I think – when you talk about the now – rather than talk about the now in terms of today or the last few hours, try to keep in mind that this was really a decision that was several weeks in the making in terms of assessing the security situation there, which undoubtedly – and you guys have reported on the terrorism threat that has existed there, the recent attacks. Secretary Kerry alluded to some of these attacks yesterday in the camera spray with the Turkish foreign minister. So this was a decision that, again, was, I think, several weeks in the making.
[…]
QUESTION: And with all that, the brains in this building and the Pentagon decided that today, right in between – right just before a President Erdogan visit, is the day to do something that you could have done last week or the week before or even next week. Does that —

MR KIRBY: We – I – look, I can’t dispute the conspiracy theorists, that they might think that there was more to it than this, that this was some sort of —

QUESTION: I would hope you do want to dispute.

MR KIRBY: I am.

QUESTION: Oh.

MR KIRBY: I mean, I can’t dispute that there are people that think that way.

QUESTION: Will think that. All right.

MR KIRBY: But I certainly can dispute the actual allegation. I can tell you, having watched the process churn now over the last several weeks, that this was done with the – with deep consideration and careful thought, interagency communication. And again, this is not the kind of decision that we take lightly. We take it very seriously. And so therefore want to do it in an appropriate, measured, deliberate fashion, and also do it at what we believe is the right time. And we believe this is the right time to do this.

QUESTION: Last one. The Pentagon was quite specific about the number of people that this was going to affect. Actually, they were even – they were quite specific about the number of pets that it would affect. How many people will this affect in terms of the State Department?

MR KIRBY: It is a small number of family members. I do not have an exact figure, but we can see if we can —

QUESTION: Oh, I know. I know you won’t give them to me. I just want to know why the Pentagon is so willing to talk about this, down to cats and dogs and little bunny rabbits, and you guys, for some reason, have a different – you’re more important, so you don’t have to —

MR KIRBY: I wouldn’t —

QUESTION: — you don’t have to give numbers about how many.

MR KIRBY: Now, Matt, I don’t —

QUESTION: That’s – so that’s the – that’s my question. Why?

MR KIRBY: The question or —

QUESTION: No, no. That’s my question. Why won’t the State Department do what the DOD did and give specific numbers?

MR KIRBY: As I understand it – and I’m happy to research this after the briefing. As I understand it, we don’t typically offer —

QUESTION: I know. This is my —

MR KIRBY: — details on the number of dependents and family members —

QUESTION: Yeah, that’s my – that’s my question.

MR KIRBY: — at any given station for security purposes. And we have – I can’t – but having worked in both institutions, I recognize that the State Department has a different threshold for security concerns about dependents and family members.

QUESTION: Why? That’s my question. Why? Why won’t you —

MR KIRBY: Okay. Well, I’ll see what I can do to find a better answer for you on why, but we aren’t going to release an exact number. And I don’t —

QUESTION: Well, I know you’re not. But I’d like just to —

MR KIRBY: And I don’t know that the Pentagon actually said how many bunnies they have.

QUESTION: They said something like 278 pets.

MR KIRBY: Okay.

QUESTION: Okay. Now I don’t know if they broke that down into goldfish or squirrels.

MR KIRBY: Well, your question alluded to hamsters and bunnies, and I just want to make sure that we’re clear on that.

QUESTION: Actually, it just – just bunnies.

MR KIRBY: Just bunnies, okay. (Laughter.) All right.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) discussion. Can I just – (laughter) – I think that should go down in history. (Laughter.) (Inaudible) between the Pentagon and the U.S. on travel alerts. Was that made independent of each other or are they related?

MR KIRBY: The – I’m sorry, the?

QUESTION: The decision by – the announcement by DOD on the drawing down —

MR KIRBY: No, this was a coordinated —

QUESTION: It is a —

MR KIRBY: This was a coordinated decision and a coordinated announcement. We were in lockstep with the Pentagon as we arrived at this decision.

QUESTION: Was there anything that triggered the specific discussions that something needs to be done to take security to the next level?

MR KIRBY: I think, again, without getting into specific intelligence issues, and certainly – and I want to again echo what I said to Matt earlier. I mean, this wasn’t the result of a specific threat to a specific institution or locality or by a specific group. This was based on an analysis over the last several weeks, certainly, of the security situation in Turkey, which undoubtedly – and you guys have covered this yourselves – has become more dangerous, particularly in southeastern Turkey. So it was based on a running analysis of the security threat there, an analysis that we share with the Pentagon about the level of potential danger here. And again, this was a decision made out of an abundance of caution to keep people as safe as possible.

Note that a 2010 OIG report of US Mission Turkey indicates that the U.S. Consulate in Adana is a small post with four direct hire employees.  OIG reported at that time that Adana was getting its first public affairs officer (PAO) in 2010 and its first RSO was to to arrive in 2011 following language training. A lot of regional developments have happened since then so post’s staffing complement of 6 direct hire employees may have already been overtaken by events. There was also local employee hiring for a Branch Office in Gaziantep (located closer to the Syrian border) in 2014, but we don’t have publicly available information regarding that presence at this time.  As for Izmir, the following is a snippet from the 2010 OIG report:

The American presence in Izmir in Western Turkey has changed markedly over the years. An American consulate existed in Izmir from 1803 to 1993. When it was closed for budgetary reasons, a consular agency was established. That agency was closed in 2002, when an American Presence Post was opened. The 2004 OIG in­ spection team recommended that the American Presence Post be closed as it was not clear what the post contributed to mission objectives. The American Presence Post was closed in 2005, and a consular agency was reestablished. What remains in Izmir today is a combination of U.S. Government personnel and activities that achieves the bare minimum of what could be possible in this dynamic port city, the third larg­est in Turkey. A consular agent occupies comfortable leased space in a commercial building. There are no outward signs that identify this facility as belonging to the U.S. Government. The consular workload is modest. Where needed, the able consular agent calls on the aid of the British consul, who has a long history in Izmir.

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