More on Operation Allies Refuge With D/MR McKeon, Amb. Jacobson and SSDO #1 On Background

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On July 21, the State Department held a briefing on Operation Allies Refuge where D/MR Brian McKeon and Afghanistan Task Force Director Ambassador Tracey Jacobson gave remarks to the press and a Senior State Department official did a Q&A on background with reporters.  US Embassy Kabul CDA Ross Wilson noted previously  in a tweet that post is “working hard to process SIV applicants and have interviewed more than 1600 along with their family members since April.” D/MR McKeon has the number for approved visas saying, “Since January, we’ve already approved 2,500 Special Immigrant Visas.”
Some 750 Afghan SIV applicants and families will be “paroled” into the U.S. starting next week. They will be located at Fort Lee, VA where they are expected, at least right now, to stay for processing for 7 to 10 days. What happens to them afterwards?
Per 9 FAM 202.3, parole authority is governed by section 212(d)(5) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Section 402 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, Public Law 107-296 transfers authority for immigration matters to the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS), including authorizing parole for an alien into the United States for urgent humanitarian reasons or for significant public benefit.
Note that neither the State Department nor consular officers have the authority to approve or extend any type of parole under any circumstances.  Parole is a discretionary authority of the Secretary of Homeland Security. The FAM says “It should be seen as a last resort for persons with urgent needs to travel to the United States or for cases with significant public benefit.”
The FAM also notes that “parolees who are paroled pursuant to INA 212(d)(5)(A) for urgent humanitarian reasons or for significant public benefit reasons do not receive the type of resettlement assistance that is provided to refugees.” So, how are they supposed to start new lives in the United States without resettlement assistance?
About 4,000 principal applicants and their families will be taken to an unnamed third-country location while they wait for the completion of their SIV application. The SDO told reporters they are “not in a position to confirm any agreements with any of those third countries at this time” when asked about potential relocations to military bases in  Kuwait and Qatar.
The State Department also told reporters that SIV applicants “would have to get themselves to Kabul” adding that  “we don’t have substantial U.S. military presence. We don’t have an ability to provide transportation for them.” Excerpts below:
Related post: USG to Mount ‘Operation Allies Refuge’ to Relocate Afghans Who Aided United States US Embassy Kabul Interviewed 1,600 Afghan SIV Applicants Since April, Interviewed ≠ Issued Visas July 13, 2021
Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian McKeon:

“In February, Embassy Kabul reopened for in-person immigrant visa services following an 11-month suspension due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That backlog has since been cleared out and we’re working as fast possible to interview SIV applicants whose appointments were canceled during a recent COVID outbreak in Kabul. Since January, we’ve already approved 2,500 Special Immigrant Visas.”

Afghanistan Task Force Director Ambassador Tracey Jacobson:

Our first priority is to relocate to the United States some 750 Afghan SIV applicants and their immediate families who have completed the majority of the visa process, including a thorough security background check. We are working to bring them to the United States starting next week. They will be paroled into the United States and have their status adjusted by the Department of Homeland Security. During this processing, they will be located at Fort Lee, Virginia, and when they leave Fort Lee, they will join 70,000 Afghans who have received SIVs and started new lives in the United States since 2008.

We are also working to relocate from Afghanistan those applicants who have received chief of mission approval but have not gone so far in their visa processing, including the full security screen. This group includes about 4,000 principal applicants and their families. We will take them to locations outside the United States where they can safely await the completion of their application processing, and we will provide them accommodation and other support during this period, which we are committed to making as short as possible.

QUESTION:  Thanks, guys, for doing this. I think we all have a bunch of questions. I am wondering how long the administration plans to be doing these relocation efforts. Do you expect this is something that will happen over the course of years given some SIV applicants have just applied recently given the U.S. troop withdrawal?

My second question is about safety for these Afghans. What is the U.S. doing, what can the U.S. do to provide them with any safety when U.S. troops withdraw from the country, and how are they being transported to the airport? Is there any support for them given threats from the Taliban? And last question is: How long are they expected to stay at Fort Lee in this final stage? Thanks.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  So working backward, we don’t expect them to stay at Fort Lee for very often, or very long, excuse me. We’ll try to work them through Fort Lee in 7 to 10 day is our hope and expectation. The applicants need to get themselves to Kabul. We’re not going to talk about how they get in and around Kabul and to the airport for security reasons.

The SIV Program is – has eligibility standards, and we have authorized numbers from the U.S. Congress, and so long as we keep having those numbers provided to us by Congress, we’ll keep processing SIV applicants.

QUESTION:  Can you talk about the others in the program and where else they might be going, and how long it will take to get what was originally estimated as as many as 70,000 people, including families, accommodated because obviously their lives are right now in danger? Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  So the total number of applicants to the SIV Program number just over 20,000, but about half of those have not yet completed the initial stages of the application process, so we’re not in a position to move forward with their case until they do so. So I’m not sure where the 70,000 number comes from. The 4,000 number and their families, they would be targeted for the next phase of bringing people to third country locations, and that process in the third country would take longer because they’re not as far along in the screening process as those who we will bring to the United States.

QUESTION:  Thanks, guys. Let me follow up on what comes next. Can you confirm that there’s the deal pretty much done to move, I don’t know if it’s the next round or the third round, some of these applicants to military bases in Kuwait and Qatar? And can you talk about whether there’s a push on P-2 refugees, whether the number – sorry, the kind of aperture of the person who can apply, whether there’s a push to expand that aperture and including P-2 refugees. And I know you don’t want to talk about some of the details on transport for security reasons, but can you give us any more details on how exactly they will get to Fort Lee this first round? Thanks.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  I’m sorry, Nick, I was – I didn’t understand the last piece of the question. I’m not sure we have many answers that we can give you. We’re talking to third countries about the possibility of temporary relocation, but we’re not in a position to confirm any agreements with any of those third countries at this time.

On the transportation to Fort Lee, we will fly them into the country and bring them by vehicle to Fort Lee. I assume it will be buses.

QUESTION:  Hi there. Thank you for doing this. Let’s see. Is the – because the Afghan SIVs will fly out through the Kabul airport, has there been an agreement finalized to keep that operating under Turkey? I don’t know if their relocations are all supposed to be completed by the time the U.S. withdraws or not. And then you say you’re – do you not yet have any agreement from any other country to temporarily host the Afghan SIVs?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  On the second question, we don’t have agreement with any countries that we’re ready to announce here.

On the airport, obviously, we’ve said the airport needs to be open and functioning as part of a normal country, and we’re grateful for our conversations with our colleagues in Turkey. The DOD is leading those conversations. We’re optimistic that we’ll have the security package that we need at the airport in Kabul.

QUESTION:  Thank you for having this call. A couple of follow-ups as well. Can you say how many there are in total with this group of 4,000 principal applicants who will be moved to third countries? If you include their families, what is that total number?

You said applicants will have to get themselves to Kabul. For many of them, that journey would be dangerous if not impossible. What would you say to the – to security concerns of folks trying to get to Kabul? Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:  So we don’t know for certain how many family members will be brought. The principal applicant can choose to bring the ones that are eligible. We’ve just been doing these rough extrapolations based on an average of three to five per principal applicant based on past practice. In order to come on an evacuation flight, they would have to get themselves to Kabul. Obviously, we don’t have substantial U.S. military presence. We don’t have an ability to provide transportation for them. If they’re, say, in the north of the country and they don’t feel safe staying in Afghanistan, they could go to a neighboring country and finish their SIV application process there.

QUESTION:  Good afternoon. Thank you so much for the call. Just a follow-up question on the Afghanistan fixers who have helped the U.S. press organizations. Would you support the creation of a visa program for those Afghans, Afghans who helped with the U.S. media organizations and who are now seeking safety in the U.S.? I’m asking this because a coalition of U.S. media organizations has sent a letter to the Congress requesting to create such visa program. Would you like to weigh in? Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE:   Yes, thank you. We’ve seen the letter from the news organizations and we’ll be responding in due course to them. As I think I’ve responded previously to this question, in terms of other people in Afghanistan who have helped the United States or helped U.S. organizations, whether it’s NGOs or media organizations, we are looking at other options for providing safe options for them outside of Afghanistan.

 

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Belarus Opposition Leader Sviatlana @Tsihanouskaya Visits WashDC

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. DS

 

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@NewYorker: Vienna Is the New Havana Syndrome Hotspot

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. Gracias — DS

 

Via New Yorker:
Since Joe Biden took office about two dozen U.S. intelligence officers, diplomats, and other government officials in Vienna have reported experiencing mysterious afflictions similar to the Havana Syndrome. U.S. officials say the number of possible new cases in the Austrian capital—long a nexus of U.S. and Russian espionage—is now greater than the number reported by officials in any city except for Havana itself, where the first cases were reported.
[…]
The first possible syndrome case in Vienna was reported a couple of months after Biden’s Inauguration. That case and subsequent ones were reported to officials in Washington soon after they occurred. But the Biden Administration decided not to announce the Vienna outbreak—officials were concerned that any public disclosure about the cases would hamper ongoing U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement investigations, which are still under way in Vienna. The Austrian Embassy in Washington declined to comment on the cluster of cases.
CNN quotes a State Department spox:
“In coordination with our partners across the U.S. Government, we are vigorously investigating reports of possible unexplained health incidents (UHI) among the U.S. Embassy Vienna community or wherever they are reported,” a State Department spokesperson said. “Any employees who reported a possible UHI received immediate and appropriate attention and care.”
On May 25, 2021 U.S. government workers and their spouses who say they were injured by Havana Syndrome sent a letter to Deputy Secretary of State Brian McKeon (via NBC)

 

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USG to Mount ‘Operation Allies Refuge’ to Relocate Afghans Who Aided United States

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. Grazie — DS

 

 

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US Mission South Africa to Amcits: Avoid All Non-Essential Movement #CivilUnrest

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. Thanks — DS

 

On July 13, US Mission South Africa issued a Security Alert recommending that U.S. citizens avoid all non-essential travel within areas affected by blockages, increased violence, vandalism and criminal activity

Event:  Civil unrest and protests continue throughout KwaZulu-Natal Province and Johannesburg and Pretoria in Gauteng Province.  Following reports of blockages on many provincial and municipal transit routes, increased violence, vandalism, and criminal activity at commercial centers, and calls for calm by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the U.S. Mission to South Africa recommends avoiding all non-essential movement within affected areas.  Exercise heightened caution in commercial areas where looting and violence can and has occurred suddenly.  The situation throughout many areas of these provinces is unstable and authorities are not able to respond to all events.   

The U.S. Consulate General Durban is available for emergency services only.  The U.S. Consulates General in Johannesburg and Cape Town are operating as normal.

There is currently a “Level 4-Do Not Travel” Advisory for South Africa due to COVID-19 and related restrictions and conditions. The advisory also advised U.S. citizens to “Exercise increased caution in South Africa due to crime and civil unrest. “
The advisory dated July 6, 2021 was “Reissued with updates to COVID-19 information and “If you decide to Travel.”
US Mission South Africa is currently headed by Chargé d’Affaires Todd P. Haskell who joined Mission South Africa as the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim in March 2021. Ambassador Haskell previously served as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Congo from July 2017 until January 2021. He is a 35-year career member of the Foreign Service, class of Minister Counselor.
Ambassador Haskell’s second in command is Heather Merritt who was “chosen by the Department of State to serve as Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) at the U.S. Mission to South Africa, effective April 16, 2021.”  According to her official bio, she arrived in South Africa on August 28, 2020 as the U.S. Consul General in Johannesburg.

 

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US Embassy Eswatini Confirms Shots Fired at Embassy Vehicle, @USMC Augments Internal Security

Thank you to over 500 readers and supporters who made our continued operation possible this year. Raising funds for a small outlet that is already open and free for all to read has often been the most challenging part of running  this blog. We are grateful for your continued support and well wishes. Thanks — DS

 

The US Embassy in Mbabane, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) issued a Security Alert, the sixth alert since late June following the continuing civil unrest in the country. The Embassy has also confirmed that shots were fired at a U.S. Embassy vehicle on July 1st and that U.S. Marines have augmented its internal security. @USMC has released a statement that a team of 13 Marines deployed on short notice to the embassy to support on-ground embassy security personnel along with the Diplomatic Security Service Mobile Security Deployments team.

Event:  The Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini announced a nationwide curfew from 1800 – 0500 hours.   Communication disruptions, including internet and cell phone service, are occurring.  Security forces are actively patrolling the streets during curfew hours.

The international airport, KMIII, is now operational.  U.S. citizens wishing to depart Eswatini should take advantage of commercial options available.

The U.S. Embassy has limited ability to assist U.S. citizens in Eswatini.

Citizens are urged to respect the government curfew and exercise caution.

US citizens who require assistance should contact +268 2417 9000 and then PRESS TWO.

The South African land borders are currently open and antigen tests are available at the border at a cost of 300 Rand, payable in Rand only.  For citizens flying out of OR Tambo, PCR testing labs are available.  Citizens are required to have a negative PCR test in order to travel to the United States.

The U.S. Embassy is operating with reduced services. U.S. citizens needing emergency services should call the Consular Section using the contact information below.

Actions to Take: 

    • Monitor local media for updates on changing conditions.
    • Expect communication disruptions; contact family and friends to let them know you are safe.
    • If safe, stock up on groceries and water and then stay home.

 

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Help! State/OBO’s Office of Fire Protection Is On Fire!

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State/OIG released its inspection report of the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations/Office of Fire Protection (FIRE). Here is a quick summary:
Background

The Department of State (Department) is required to establish and maintain an effective fire protection program for its overseas operations under 29 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 1910, 1926, and 1960.The Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO), Directorate of Operations, Office of Fire Protection (FIRE) manages and directs this program …

FIRE is led by an Office Director and the office’s staff consists of 43 Civil Service employees, 1 personal services contractor, and 11 thirdparty contractors.2 The office has three divisions: Fire Protection Analysis and Field Engineering (FPA) Division, Fire Protection Engineering (FPE) Division, and Fire Protection Systems and Engineering (FPS) Division. The FPA Division conducts fire and life safety evaluations, fire investigations,training, and fire as a weapon analysis.3 The division also evaluates local and contract fire services,oversees the emergency incident management and disaster response oversight,and administers the fire and life safety equipment logistics program for overseas posts.

Office Director Did Not Fully Model the Department’s Leadership and Management Principles

OIG found that the FIRE Office Director did not fully model the Department’s leadership and management principles outlined in 3 FAM 1214,6 especially with regards to communication, selfawareness, and managing conflict. In OIG interviews, 42 percent of FIRE staff interviewed described the director’s leadership style as difficult, specifically“autocratic” or “micromanaging” because he preferred to retain control over decisions with little input from his staff and he often involved himself in administrative activities that would be better handled by firstline supervisors. Staff also told OIG that the Office Director had a propensity for favoritism toward some FIRE employees. Some staff also said FIRE had low morale because of the Office Director’s stance on administrative issues such as not allowing overtime in situations where employees felt it was warranted to meet the office’s mission and his failure to address concerns about the accuracy of FPE Division’s engineer position descriptions and grade levels, which they believed were inaccurate.

The Office Director acknowledged to OIG that his leadership style was difficult for some FIRE employees. He noted that a longstanding dispute about the accuracy of the FPE Division’s engineer position descriptions and grade levels had a detrimental effect on morale.7 In addition, at OBO’s request,8 the Bureau of Global Talent Management (GTM) conducted an organizational assessment in 2019.9The organizational assessment focused on FIRE leadership issues,including communication, technical expert participation in the decision-making process, and collaboration among FIRE divisions. It also focused on a range of administrative issues, including the accuracy of the FPE Division’s engineer position descriptions, standard operating procedures for overtime, and service passports for third-party contractors. During the inspection, FIRE began implementing the recommendations in GTM’s organizational assessment report. However, based on FIRE’s lack of progress on standard operating procedures for overtime and obtaining service passports for third-party contractors at the time of the inspection, OIG made recommendations to address these issues, as described in the Operational Effectiveness and Program Implementation and Resource Management sections of this report. Additionally, OIG suggested to the Office Director that he contact the Foreign Service Institute’s Leadership and Management School to engage a neutral third-party facilitator to address the leadership, morale, and administrative issues reported by FIRE staff. He agreed to use these Foreign Service Institute Leadership and Management School resources to address the issues described above.

Wait, the director told the OIG that his leadership style was difficult for some FIRE employees?”  That’s some 42 percent of the staff who gave him a thumbs down.  Does it need to be 51 percent?
The same individual who does not seem to acknowledged a deficient leadership style is now asked to call FSI’s Leadership and Management School for a third party facilitator “to address the leadership, morale, and administrative issues reported by the staff?” And this was made as a “suggestion” and not even included in the formal recommendations? A suggestion by its nature may be accepted or rejected.  So there will be no follow-up required, hey?
C’mon, folks, 2035 is tad far off for a status update on these issues; your poor blogger may be living in a colony in Mars by then with spotty wifi or in the midst of a zombie apocalypse!
The good news is — the directors of the three divisions of Fire Protection Analysis and Field Engineering (FPA), Fire Protection Engineering (FPE), and Fire Protection Systems and Engineering (FPS) received positive ratings in OIG’s survey and in employee interviews.5  Apparently, the OIG survey respondents rated the three Division Directors very good to excellent for all the 10 leadership and management principles found in 3 FAM 1214, “Leadership and Management Principles for Department Employees.”
We can’t tell from the report when was the last time this office was reviewed by the OIG. It is possible that it may not been inspected for many, many years; we have not been able to find any previous reports. The current report talks about “the past 14 years” and six fiscal years, so there’s that.
Fire Casualties/Fatalities

Over the past 14 years, FIRE reported three fatalities and five injuries.10 Although the number of firerelated fatalities and injuries remained low, the number of fire incidents and the associated monetary loss fluctuated over the past 6 fiscal years, ranging from 95 to 154 incidents per fiscal year, with associated annual losses from $358,206 to $37,291,962.11 Overall, OIG found that FIRE carried out its mission to prevent firerelated fatalities and injuries and generally met its performance objectives.

Footnote 10 notes that OBO/FIRE reported three fatalities over the last 14 years:
— one locally employed staff in Islamabad in 2006,
— one Foreign Service officer in Moscow in 2014 (Also see US Embassy Moscow: FS Employee Hurt in Apartment Building Gas Explosion Dies); Death in the Foreign Service: Why we said “no” to an Embassy Information Sanitation Dude
— one local contractor in Addis Ababa in 2017
FIRE also reported five injuries:
— one locally employed staff in Islamabad in 2006
— one Foreign Service officer and one locally employed staff in Dhaka in 2007
— one locally employed staff in Addis Ababa in 2015
— one Foreign Service officer in Quito in 2019.
Footnote 11 notes that “Of the $37,291,962 total loss, which occurred in FY 2020, $35million was attributable to a fire at Embassy Baghdad following a terrorist attack.”
Other notable items:

— OIG found no requirement for COMs to attest or certify in the annual SOAthat their postshad an effective fire protection program. In addition, the templates in Annex 1o f the SOA required COMs to attest to the effectiveness of eight facility management programs but none were related to the fire protection program.

— OIG found that low participation in fire prevention training at overseas posts hindered the effectiveness of FIRE’s fire protection program. According to a cable sent to all overseas posts,14 often fewer than 20 percent of personnel assigned to post attend fire prevention training15 provided by fire marshals during their visits.

— OIG found that a lack of service passports19 for FIRE’s 11 thirdparty contractors, which would allow them to carry work tools and fire system repair parts through foreign customs,affected operational effectiveness.20FIRE’s thirdparty contractors sometimes were subjected to increased scrutiny from local customs and immigration officials when traveling on their tourist passports.For example, one of FIRE’s thirdparty contractors was detained for several hours when host government authorities discovered hand tools and electronic detection and testing equipment in his luggage, while in another instance, some of his equipment was seized. FIRE reported that obtaining a business visa from the host country has not prevented these issues.CA recommends that most thirdparty contractors should continue to travel on tourist passports. FIRE first tried to obtain a service passport for a thirdparty contractor in 2017, but CA denied the request because it determined that FIRE’s justification was insufficient.

— OIG found FIRE had an inefficient manual system for tracking overseas posts’ compliance with its fire safety inspection recommendations. Specifically, FIRE used spreadsheets to track compliance with its recommendations for more than 90 overseas post inspections.

— FIRE’s overtime policy did not fully comply with Department standards in 3 FAM 3133.1, 3 FAM 3133.2,and 3 FAM 3133.3governing regularly and irregularly scheduled overtime.22 Although FIRE’s overtime policy addressed irregularly scheduled overtime, it did not include guidelines for regularly scheduled overtime that must be scheduled in advance of a workweek. Additionally, OIG reviewed statements from supervisors in FIRE documents instructing employees that the office does not pay overtime, that employees should not submit requests for paid overtime, and that FIRE has had for many years an unwritten policy that overtime is and shall be unscheduled and therefore paid by compensatory time and not overtime pay.

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US Embassy Kabul on COVID Lockdown, AFSA Calls For Vaccination Requirement For All Staffers

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The US Embassy in Kabul issued a Management Notice for an Immediate COVID-19 Lockdown due to surging cases at post. The notice notes that “95% of our cases are individuals who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.” The notice also says “Failure to abide by the Mission’s COVID policies will result in consequences up to and including removal from Post on the next available flight.”
AFSA has issued a statement calling for the Biden Administration to “take swift action to allow the Department of State to require all personnel, including local employees and third-country nationals, serving at our embassies and consulates abroad under Chief of Mission authority, direct-hire and contract alike, to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 as a condition of their physical presence in the workplace.” AFSA’s vaccination requirement push includes “for those individuals who cannot get vaccinated due to medical reasons or disability or religious belief or practice.”
Below is the AFSA statement:

Our Embassy in Afghanistan has announced that one employee has died and 114 have been infected with Covid-19. Several employees have had to be evacuated from Afghanistan, and others are being treated in an emergency Covid-19 ward at the Embassy that was created because U.S. military hospital facilities are full. The entire Embassy staff has been put on lockdown and nearly all staff members are confined to their quarters around the clock.

At a time when the U.S. military withdrawal is accelerating, attacks on Afghan and Coalition forces are intensifying and the U.S. is seeking to establish a stable and positive presence in Afghanistan after the withdrawal, the damage to our national security and national interests is potentially grave.

AFSA urges the Biden Administration to take swift action to allow the Department of State to require all personnel, including local employees and third-country nationals, serving at our embassies and consulates abroad under Chief of Mission authority, direct-hire and contract alike, to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 as a condition of their physical presence in the workplace. The only exceptions would be for those individuals who cannot get vaccinated due to medical reasons or disability or religious belief or practice.    

This has always been a matter of life and death, but now it literally has become exactly that for our members and colleagues serving their country abroad. Recent Federal court rulings have upheld requiring vaccination as a condition of employment in specific situations, such as health care. Service at our embassies and consulates should be treated similarly.

 

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Belarus Kicks Out US Diplomats With New Limits in US Embassy Minsk Staffing

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According to the June 3 statement from the Belarus Foreign Ministry, the government summoned the Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Minsk and informed him of retaliatory measures against the United States. The measures include the reduction of the diplomatic and administrative-technical personnel of the American diplomatic mission, the tightening of visa procedures, the limitation of the work of American specialists in Belarus on a temporary basis. The government also revoked the work permit for the US Agency for International Development.
In 2008, the Belarusian Government imposed restrictions on the number of U.S. diplomats allowed in Minsk, and the State Department was forced to reduce its embassy staff from 35 to five diplomats as well as withdraw the U.S. Ambassador. The number of U.S. diplomats was later increased to six in July 2014. We are not sure how many were at post prior to this latest development. The current CDA Ruben Harutunian assumed his duties as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Minsk on May 24, 2021.
In April 2020, with improved relations with the dictator in Belarus, the Trump Administration announced the nomination of  career diplomat Julie Fisher as the first U.S. Ambassador to Minsk since 2008. She was confirmed in December 2020. In April this year, the new ambassador was reportedly to reside in Lithuania temporarily as she was not granted a visa for Belarus.

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Oh, Helsinki! Florida Man Sends Warmest Regards to Putin, ‘Swagger’ Guy Preens About Russia Record

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President Biden will be in Brussels, Belgium for the NATO Summit on June 14, and the U.S.–EU Summit on June 15. He will travel to Geneva, Switzerland on June 16 for a bilateral summit with Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin.
On June 10, the former president released a statement remembering fondly his meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. We remember the bonkers press conference. Florida man also sent his “warmest regards” to Vlad. Over the weekend, the former secretary of state went on teevee and gaslighted everyone on the former administration’s record on Russia.  What hell-arious daymares we have!

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