US Consulate Herat Casualties: One Afghan Police, Eight Local Guards Killed

— By Domani Spero

On September 15, the US Embassy in Kabul released a statement by Jillian Burns, the Consul General of Consulate Herat. The statement noted the death of one Afghan policeman and eight guards from the Afghan Local Guard Force during the September 13 attack on the consulate but did not give any indication on how many were wounded.   It also announced Gene Young , her successor as Consul and Senior Civilian Representative in Herat.   Mr. Young until recently was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy Ljubljana, in Slovenia.

Related post: Suicide Bombers Target US Consulate Herat: Locals Reportedly Killed/Wounded,  No American Casualties. Also read The Skeptical Bureaucrat’s post U.S. Consulate Herat: Attack Defeated But Local Guards Killed

Photo via USConsulate Herat/FB

Photo via USConsulate Herat/FB

Statement by Jillian Burns, Consul General, U.S. Consulate Herat, Afghanistan | September 15, 2013

First, I want to express my personal condolences and those of the entire Consulate to the families of the eight Afghan Consulate guard staff and the one Afghan police officer who lost their lives defending our diplomatic facility against this senseless attack.

On September 11, I saw our local guards outside cheering joyfully with passersby on the occasion of Afghanistan’s win in the South Asia football championship, and I remarked to myself what a wonderful sign it was of normalcy returning to Afghanistan.  Two days later, those guards prevented insurgents from entering the Consulate.  These heroes, who work day and night to protect me and my American, Afghan, and third country national colleagues, train vigorously for the event we all hope will never happen.  We are forever grateful for the sacrifice these men made on our behalf.

We wish a speedy recovery to all those injured in the attack: guards; police; and civilians.  Many others suffered from broken property, downed power lines, and damage to one of Herat’s most important trade routes.

As terrible as the attack was, it could have been far worse.  Our security measures were effective. The attackers were quickly defeated; our internal perimeter was not breached.  The rapid reaction of our guard force, Afghan National Security Forces, and ISAF military units was critical in preventing further loss of life both inside and outside our Consulate walls.  We will never forget the sight of hundreds of security officials coming to our aid.  We have been heartened by the many calls and statements of support condemning this senseless act of violence, particularly from Herat Governor Syed Fazlullah Wahidi.  President Karzai and the United Nations Security Council also denounced the attack.

Even in these circumstances, the Consulate never closed, and we are now focused on the future.  I will remain in Herat with members of my team these last few days of my assignment here, and then welcome Gene Young as the new Consul and Senior Civilian Representative.  We are assessing the damage to our facility and making future plans.  Our mission has not changed –to strengthen ties between Afghanistan and the United States and to work with Afghans and the international community for Afghanistan’s political, social and economic development.  Anyone willing to commit murder to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a stable, prosperous nation should be condemned.  We will work with Afghan authorities to bring those responsible to justice and to save the lives of other innocents.   In the meantime, we pay tribute to the many heroes of Afghanistan who have given their lives to protect the lives of others.

The original statement is available here.

On September 13, carried an interview with Ms. Burns husband, David Burns, a professor in the Salisbury University department of communications.






18 State Dept Accountability Review Boards Convened Since 1986 – Only Two Publicly Available

We recently located a GAO report (see State Department Has Not Fully Implemented Key Measures to Protect U.S. Officials from Terrorist Attacks Outside of Embassies GAO-05-642, May 2005) listing the previous Accountability Review Boards convened  from 1986 when the ARB was first mandated under the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986. As of March 2005 when the GAO report was made, 11 Accountability Review Boards had been convened. Of that 11 ARBs, five investigations have focused on attacks of U.S. officials on their way to work. The remaining remaining six ARBs were on attacks against U.S. facilities.

1.  Honduras.  April 1988 attack on U.S. facilities in Honduras

2.  Greece. June 1988 assassination of a post official in Greece

3.  Philippines. April 1989 assassination of a post official in the Philippines

4. Bolivia. 1990 attack on a U.S. facility in Bolivia

5.  Peru.  1992 attack on the Ambassador’s residence in Peru

6. Saudi Arabia. 1995 attack on a U.S. facility in Saudi Arabia

7. Pakistan. March 1995 assassination of two post officials in Pakistan  (Karachi, ARB convened 4/1995)

8. Kenya and Tanzania. 1998 bombings of U.S embassies in Kenya and Tanzania
(unclassified report available online)

9. Jordan. October 2002 assassination of a post official in Jordan
(On 27 Jan 2003, an Accountability Review Board was convened for the Murder of Laurence Foley, USAID Official in Amman, Jordan)

10. Gaza.  October 2003 assassination in Gaza of three post contractors from Israel.
(ARB completed in 2004)

We dug up some more from the Federal Register last year.  Two other ARBs (noted below) were located by The Skeptical Bureaucrat.  The State Dept said that there had been 18 ARBs convened since the statute was passed. We only have 16 on this list. Do feel free to add in the comment section if you know about the other two ARBs unlisted here.

11. Iraq.  On February 28, 2005 Convening an Accountability Review Board for the November 24, 2004 Murder of Mr. James C. Mollen, an Employee of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq (h/t The Skeptical Bureaucrat)

12.  Saudi Arabia.  On 11 Mar 2005, the Accountability Review Board for the December 6, 2004 Attack on the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
(Review of Department of State Implementation of Jeddah Accountability Review Board of Recommendation to Consider Remote Safe Areas at Missions Worldwide, OIG, March 2013)

13. Iraq. On May 10, 2005 Convening an Accountability Review Board for the January 29, 2005, Rocket Attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, Which Caused the Deaths of LCDR Keith Taylor, USN, and Ms. Barbara Heald. (h/t The Skeptical Bureaucrat)

14. Iraq. On 8 December 2005, the Accountability Review Board to Examine the Circumstances of the Death of DS Special Agent Stephen Sullivan and Seven Security Contractors in September 2005 in Iraq.

In October 2005 ARB Exemption for incidents in Afghanistan and Iraq: Pursuant to Public Law 109-140 and Public Law 111-117, the Secretary of State is not required to convene a Board in the case of an incident involving serious injury, loss of life, or significant destruction of property at or related to a U.S. Government mission in Afghanistan or Iraq and which occurs in the period beginning on October 1, 2005 and ending on September 30, 2010 ( see 12 FAM 033.1)

15.  Pakistan.  On May 2006  an Accountability Review Board To Examine the Circumstances of the Death of David E. Foy and Mr. Iftikhar Ahmed in March 2006, Karachi, Pakistan

16. Sudan.  On 14 April 2008, Secretary Rice convened an ARB to Examine the Circumstances of the Death of John M. Granville and Abdelrahman Abees in Khartoum, Sudan in January 2008.

17. Pakistan.  On 22 October 2010, Secretary Clinton convened the first ARB during her tenure relating to the Death of Three DoD Personnel Assigned to the U.S. Embassy’s Office of Defense Representative Pakistan (ODRP) on February 3, 2010

18.  Libya. On October 4, 2012, Secretary Clinton convened the Accountability Review Board to Examine the Circumstances Surrounding the Deaths of personnel assigned in support of the U.S. Government mission to Libya in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012
(unclassified report available online)

As far as we are able to tell, the OIG had only twice previously reviewed the ARB recommendations  and  both were on ARB Jeddah.  In February 2009, the OIG reviewed the State Dept’s progress towards the installation of mantraps at U.S. diplomatic posts worldwide. Not clear from the 2-page report if this was one of the recommendations by ARB Jeddah but the 2004 incident, according to the IG, prompted the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), in coordination with the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) to initiate a program to install pedestrian barriers, or “mantraps,” at all diplomatic posts worldwide.

On April 15, 2013, a 5-page IG report dated March 31, 2013 on the “Review of Department of State Implementation of Jeddah Accountability Review Board of Recommendation to Consider Remote Safe Areas at Missions Worldwide” was posted online.

We don’t know what type of classification these ARBs carry, but if the intent of having an accountability review is to learn the lessons from these attacks, it seems odd that the ARBs even from the 1980s are still under wraps.  We understand that the non-public reports are not even available to DS agents and Regional Security officers.  How can that be?


Thanks to TSB and A.Cog for helping us complete this list!  

— DS



Zabul Attack: Walking But Not Lost, More Details But Not Official; Plus Update on Kelly Hunt

On Friday, April 12, the AP citing a senior State Department “not authorized to speak to the news media” reported that the initial reports that members of the group were in vehicles, as well as subsequent media reports that they were lost, are incorrect.

The official reportedly provided the details on condition of anonymity.  This report contradicted the eyewitness account of an Afghan reporter cited by McClatchy news on Wednesday, April 10.

You may read the full AP report here.

Last weekend, The Skeptical Bureaucrat  (TSB) posted about this here:

It’s quite bad enough already, judging by the details that have come out so far. Let’s see … the book donation visit to the Sheik Baba Metti school by a team from the U.S. Embassy and PRT Zabul was announced to the press one day in advance. But, despite that lack of operational security, the team was allowed to walk to the school from the PRT’s base at FOB Smart rather than use protected vehicles. The roughly 100-meter long route to the school evidently wasn’t swept before the team’s walk, or blocked to traffic during the movement. The team’s military escort didn’t know which gate to use to enter the school – a school that the PRT itself funded and regularly visited – which required the team to double back to FOB Smart and further expose themselves to attack.

Lastly, the attack reportedly involved a roadside bomb as well as a suicide driver in a bomb-laden vehicle. If that’s true, it means that the Taliban were able to plant a command-detonated bomb in the street immediately outside FOB Smart despite the surveillance that street was undoubtedly under by both the U.S. and Afghan military.

There is reportedly an ongoing FBI investigation. The FBI investigates bombings in the U.S. and overseas where incidents were acts of terrorism against U.S. persons or interests. But this is the war zone. Was there also an FBI investigation on the suicide bombing that killed a USAID officer and wounded an FSO in Kunar Province last year? (Update: We’re told by a blog pal in Afghanistan that the FBI investigates a lot of different incidents in Afghanistan and that there is “nothing unusual” with them investigating the April 6 attack.  Was also asked about an ARB for Camp Bastion.  Camp is under military control so that’s a clear exception to ARB regs; nothing to keep DOD from pursuing its own inquiry but we haven’t heard anything moving on that direction. Read this piece by Rajiv Chandrasekaran on the Taliban attack that resulted in the deaths of two Marines and the largest loss of allied materiel in the 11-year-long Afghan war).

No way to tell right now if there will be an Accountability Review Board. As TSB pointed out, there is a limited exception for convening an ARB if the security incidents involving serious injury or loss of life occurs in Iraq or Afghanistan. We found an exemption for incidents between October 1, 2005-September 30, 2009. In December 2009, that exemption remained in effect through September 30, 2010.

Following the findings of “accountability” from the ARB on Benghazi, we are not holding our breath on an ARB on this latest incident. After not seeing any ARBs convened for several attacks on embassy properties with significant damages last year, we’re starting to think that an ARB in its current authority is not the best use of time/resources to assign accountability.

The notion that an ARB is convened to investigate security incidents that result in “serious injury, loss of life, or significant destruction of property” and then keep the result secret and the interviewees secret is absurd. Add to that the fact that the Secretary of State did not even convene an ARB for all the mob attacks last year which resulted in significant destruction of embassy properties, makes one think that the ARB on its present form is not as useful or effective as it should be.  It also leaves the recommendation on whether or not the Secretary of State should convene an ARB on the hands of the Permanent Coordinating Council in the State Department, staffed by people who answer to their chain of command.

So – we’d much rather see the FBI conduct these investigations.

Also last Thursday, Lt. Col. Justin Kraft, the Zabul Provincial Reconstruction Team commander released the following statement via FB:

We recently lost three of our nation’s finest warriors. They were sons, brothers, one was a father, and all were men who lived, served and died with honor. They gave to their country and their brothers and sisters in arms the last full measure of their courage. 

We are less for this loss. 

Please keep their families in your thoughts and prayers at this difficult time.

DOD identified the three soldiers killed in the April 6 attack but to-date the identity of the DOD civilian who perished in the same attack had not been released. Who was he/she? Did he/she leave behind a family?

On April 14, Staff Sgt. Chris Ward was buried at Oak Ridge. According to, Maj. Gen. Jeffory Smith, commander of Fort Knox, Ky., presented  the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star to Ward’s mother. The passing of these casualties was heartbreaking  to their loved ones, fellow soldiers and largely ignored by the public. The death of  three  soldiers in the battlefield of Afghanistan … not much was said.

On April 18, also reported that Kelly Hunt, the State Department employee wounded in the attack arrived earlier this week at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington.  Friends of Ms. Hunt at her home state are organizing a fund-raiser online to help the family.  You can check it out here. We have been looking but have not been able to find a contact email for the organizers.  The family Friends of Ms. Hunt have also put up a Facebook page – Kelly Hunt’s Road to Recovery , it includes updates from Dinah Hunt, Kelly’s mother.


— DS


Updated on April 22@1720 PST with info on ARB

Updated on April 22 @21:41 PST with FB page correction; page put up by friends not family.





In the post-Benghazi bureaucratic world — going forward. To where?

TSB over at The Skeptical Bureaucrat noticed the words being bandied about in the post-Benghazi bureaucratic world:

“Going forward” was the phrase we heard over and over at last month’s hearings. Will embassy security get better “going forward” after Benghazi? Will any real improvements come out of that disaster?
According to Hillary’s letter to Congress, the Department will now prioritize resources on a list of about twenty specially designated high threat posts. All well and good. But, if the next attack happens at one of those posts, will we then blame middle managers in an office annex in Rosslyn for not having sent more money and manpower to High Threat Post A and less to HT Posts B and C? And if the next attack happens at one of the 250 or so other diplomatic missions in the world, will we blame the same managers for not having upgraded Post D to the high threat group? And won’t every post in the world request every security measure it can think of “going forward” after Benghazi? Yes, yes, and yes. We can prioritize by risk, or we can cover our bureaucratic asses by spreading resources around evenly, but we can’t do both at the same time.

By the way, what’s up with that very odd term being used to describe those posts of special concern? High threat posts? As Diplopundit has noted, they are not literally the Department’s high threat level posts, and the criteria for designating them has not been explained, so far as I know. The ARB used the phrase “high risk/high threat” posts but that’s no better, not to mention kind of incoherent if you are a stickler for risk management definitions, since “threat” is only a component of “risk.”

Why isn’t the Department using the perfectly good term “Special Conditions” posts? That’s already an established category of diplomatic post with its own special rules for applying security standards and providing resources under extreme conditions. You can find it in 12 FAM 057.3, which the department has made publicly available here. That would be a step forward in terms of clarity, at least.

Read in full, The Skeptical Bureaucrat on Risk Management “Going Forward.”

You betcha every post in the world will have their requests down in bold, dark ink. Especially, if they are a designated danger post but not on the newly designated “high threat” list.  Then the somebodies will be on record approving or denying such and such request.  But you know, the request was on record when Ambassador Bushnell made her request on behalf of the US Embassy in Nairobi.  And there were paper trails and sworn testimonies concerning the requests made for the security in Benghazi.  Yeah. A lot of good it did them.

The other thing we’ve been thinking about on that high threat designation — surely, the people who are intent on doing our people harm are not totally dumb.  Given the opportunity to attack – would they really expend more efforts on those US diplomatic posts already considered “high threat” (what with the accompanying spending for fortifying/protecting those posts)?  If you were in their shoes, wouldn’t you attack targets that are not on those “high threat” list? Because why would you bang yourself against the hard wall when there is a soft wall um, okay, a wall of lesser hardness elsewhere?

By designating those missions as “high threat” posts, is it possible that we have discouraged the attacks against those facilities but have merely shifted the targets to diplomatic posts not on that list?  Okay, think about that for a moment.  There are about 250 posts not/not on that high threat list.


Protecting Diplomats Post-Embassy Attacks: More Fortresses or Rethinking Fortresses?

The Skeptical Bureaucrat in his blog points out that the USG investment in new, secure, embassy buildings paid off very big for those employees who were inside the safe havens in Tunis, Khartoum, and Sanaa during the embassy attacks several days ago.  He writes:

Where the host government fulfilled its obligation to protect the integrity of diplomatic premises, the mobs were kept back. Where the host government did not do so, our missions had to rely on physical barriers – their walls, doors and windows – to keep the mobs outside.

Physical barriers themselves are not absolute protection, of course, but are there just to delay the attackers until the host government acts, if it ever does.You cannot keep people out of embassy compounds for long if the local authorities don’t show up. However, you can keep people out of your embassy office building for a good long time, maybe even long enough for them to give up and leave, if the building was built for that purpose.

Of course, if it were more than a mob attack, people may not just give up and leave; or may do so only after there is considerable damage in life and property.

In the aftermath of the Benghazi attack and several breaches into our embassy compounds, diplomatic security will be in the front burner once more.  Like Yogi Berra says, it’s dejavu all over again. The 1998 East Africa embassy bombings happened in an off election year (but during the Lewinsky scandal), the Benghazi attack happened right smack in the middle of a presidential election. So while there will be calls for resignations, investigations and whatnots, this year, it will be louder than usual.

There will be calls for more secure embassy facilities in addition to the now standard requirement for 100-foot setback from vehicular traffic and nine-foot-tall walls.  Former Ambassador Edward P. Djerejian once said, ‘O.K., we built a 16-foot wall, but there is such a thing as a 17-foot ladder.’  As we’ve seen this past weeks on live tv, the 100-foot setback and nine-foot walls were not a deterrent to rioters who scrambled quickly up those walls and spread easily to wreck havoc inside the compound.

Before the embassy attacks happened, the new 1 billion US Embassy in London reportedly inspired by English architecture, was already planned to include a moat, er, reflecting pool to “prevent the possibility of a vehicle getting to the embassy to cause damage.” Take a look. Somebody must have already calculated the upkeep and utilities for a building such as this, but we have not seen the figures.  For more on the new embassies, read  former FSO, Dave Seminara’s piece in The Washington Diplomat, America’s Embassy Building Boom Fortifies Diplomacy, Security Abroad from April this year.

Aerial view of the new Embassy building © KieranTimberlake/studio amd via US Embassy London/Flickr

Continuing on this road, the next stop might be a concentric fortress for an embassy needing the very best protection.  As with the concentric castles of the 12th century, the concentric embassy will be surrounded by a moat and entrance will be by drawbridge. It will be protected by an inner wall built of thick stone with towers positioned at intervals, and another lower stone wall that’s just as thick.  Apparently, in the old days, the space between the two walls was known as the ‘death hole’ because those trapped within the walls certainly die from being picked by archers one by one.

The Krak des Chevaliers as it was in the Middle-Ages. From Guillaume Rey : Étude sur les monuments de l’architecture militaire des croisés en Syrie et dans l’île de Chypre (1871). Via Wikipedia

Finally, we promised not to fall off our chair if there will be calls for our diplomats to get more weapons training in addition to a week of crash and bang for those going to war zones and dangerous assignments. Or for our diplomats to be armed.

While we wait for the results of the yet to meet Pickering Accountability Review Board, we must note that the Benghazi office or as The Skeptical Bureaucrat calls it, the Non-Standard, Un-Fortress, Not-A-Consulate In Benghazi, is not even a typical new embassy compound. But it’s not by far, the only one. We have an American Presence Post and Consulates with one or two or a few American officers holding offices at rented floors in commercial buildings.  How do you turn those rented floors into fortresses?

Anthony C. E. Quainton, a former assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security says, “You can protect people where they work by building more fortified embassies. […] But how do you protect them all the time, in all places?”

That’s a great question — how do you protect them all the time, in all places?

Wendy Chamberlain, our former Ambassador to Pakistan and Lao People’s Democratic Republic and the current
President of the Middle East Institute has this piece in HuffPo:

In this brave new context the 1961 Vienna Conventions, based on the premise of the equality of sovereign states, seem quaint to say the least, particularly Article 22 which guarantees the inviolability of diplomatic facilities. Clearly we must not abandon the mission even though these newly emerging nations do not have the wherewithal to provide such security.
In transitional regions, we must rely on smaller, more agile missions, granting the ambassador greater control over the nature and size of his or her staff. While not minimizing the importance of personal contact, and the unspoken message our presence sends, we should engage NGOs and local platforms and deploy electrons in lieu of bodies whenever possible. We must be more Sun Tzu than Clausewitz, less bulky and bureaucratic, with the budgetary flexibility to change direction when need be and less reliant on embassy fortresses to secure our assets, even as we work to assist central authorities to build their security infrastructure. And perhaps it is time to take another look at our increasingly militaristic approach to international relations, driven to some degree by the fact that our enormously talented, competent military and its neatly measureable operational successes are politically easier to fund than the long, often messy slog of brick-making for building the foundations of civil society.

The ever sharp Chas Freeman, our former US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, former Assistant Secretary of Defense and almost National Intel Council chair (until his nomination was derailed) has some thoughts about how to make our diplomats safer, and it has less to do with fortress embassies:

In his speech to the UNGA, Egyptian President Morsi recognized the “duty” of the receiving state to protect the diplomats assigned to it.  This is a useful reminder of an ancient truth. The farther we move into self-protection through the transformation of embassies into fortifications and motorcades into armadas, the more we undercut both the traditions and the effectiveness of diplomacy.  Diplomats add very little value if they mimic military invaders, cower behind walls, are inaccessible to local people, and venture forth only in armed convoys.  (I won’t visit U.S. embassies myself anymore.  It’s just too much hassle.  Then, too, as a onetime professional diplomat and proud American, I’m embarrassed by the zero-risk mentality on display.)

In procedural, if not in substantive terms, diplomacy is an inherently consensual and reciprocal, not a coercive or combatant activity.  We should be thinking hard about how to return the responsibility for the protection of diplomats as much as possible to the host nation, where it belongs.  If a host nation cannot or will not discharge that duty, we would be well advised to end or severely to limit our presence there, impose reciprocal restrictions on its representation here, enlist others in punitive sanctions against it, and plan to communicate with it by Skype, etc. or in neutral third countries rather than face-to-face.

It is truly striking (though not surprising in the midst of a presidential election and given the role of talk radio in dumbing down our national dialogue) that debate here focuses so singlemindedly on how we can protect ourselves or — as many Americans argue — arm our diplomats to blow away those who appear to threaten them.  We should be attempting to strengthen the host nation obligation to protect diplomats that is implicit in the Vienna Conventions, find ways to enforce this obligation, and criminalize or assign liability under international law for failing to discharge it, not designing more elaborately crenelated crusader castles for our diplomatic outposts in the Middle East or elsewhere.

By taking up the gun and relying on the parapet rather than the security services of the host and the law to protect us, we are inadvertently endorsing the notion that there can be no safety in the rule of law.  In an odd way, by building fortresses and preparing to blaze away at those who display anger as they approach us, we encourage the very violence we should be attempting to preclude.  Our obsessions with monopolizing security responsibilities for our installations and personnel unintentionally contributes to the irresponsibility of receiving-state governments, degrades the idea of the sanctity of envoys, and erodes the prospects for rule-based order internationally.  To make our diplomats safer, we need better diplomacy vis-à-vis foreign nations and international organizations much more than we need higher bastions.

The Inman Report of the Secretary of State’s Advisory Panel on Overseas Security following the Marine barracks bombing and the April 1983 US Embassy bombing in Beirut, Lebanon, has been influential in setting security standards, not just with the embassy design, but also with physical and residential security, training, use of armored vehicles, etc. The idea of an accountability board as a “board of inquiry […] convened in the event of a security incident involving loss of life, grievous injury or massive property destruction due to terrorist or other violence” also originates from the Inman Commission.

The Crowe Accountability Review Board following the 1998 twin embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania “observed that many of the problems identified in that landmark report [Inman] persist..”  It faults “the collective failure of the US government over the past decade to provide adequate resources to reduce the vulnerability of US diplomatic missions to terrorist attacks in most countries around the world. Responsibility for this failure can be attributed to several Administrations and their agencies, including the Department of State, the National Security Council, and the Office of Management and Budget, as well as the US Congress.”

Following the release of the Crowe Report, there were changes in work place security including co-location of US agencies in the host country, additional funding for capital building programs, better crisis management and procedures including Crisis Management Exercise conducted regularly in our posts overseas.

The Crowe ARB in 1999 also recommended that the Department look specifically at reducing the number of diplomatic missions by establishing regional embassies located in less threatened and vulnerable countries with Ambassadors accredited to several governments. The State Department did exactly the opposite, of course, by opening missions not only in vulnerable countries but in the middle of war zones.

It is too early to tell how the Pickering ARB will impact the conduct of diplomacy abroad or the life of USG employees overseas.  We’re sure there will be changes, we just don’t know if there will be more fortresses in the future or less.






Pickering Accountability Review Board to Start Work This Week

Updated @8:33 am PST:
The ARB announcement is set to be published on October 4, 2012. The pre-publication notice in the Federal Register dated October 1 went online today, October 3, with all the names included below, minus the name of the Executive Secretary of the Board.  The FR notice says that the Board will submit its conclusions and recommendations to Secretary Clinton within 60 days of its first meeting, unless the Chair determines a need for additional time. Anyone with information relevant to the Board’s examination of the Benghazi incidents should contact the Board promptly at (202) 647-6246 or send a fax to the
Board at (202) 647-6640.


Secretary Clinton in a letter to the House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrel Issa (R-CA) said that the Accountability Review Board chaired by Ambassador Pickering will begin work this week (read Clinton’s letter to Issa here via The Cable).

The letter also lists all members of the ARB with the exception of the still unidentified Executive Secretary to the Board, normally a senior Foreign Service officer or a retired senior Foreign Service officer recommended by DGHR/CDA.

Ambassador Thomas Pickering (Ret)

He spent four decades in Foreign Service including ambassadorships in Russia (1993–1996), India (1992–1993), United Nations (1989–1992), Israel (1985–1988), El Salvador (1983–1985), Nigeria (1981–1983), and Jordan (1974–1978). He also served as Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 1997 to 2000. He holds the personal rank of Career Ambassador, the highest in the U.S. Foreign Service.

Adm. Mike G. Mullen (Ret)

A retired United States Navy admiral who left the Navy after over 43 years of service.  He served as the 17th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from October 1, 2007 to September 30, 2011.

Richard J. Shinnick

Director, ad interim, for the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) in 2008. Mr. Shinnick joined  OBO after retiring from the Foreign Service as a Senior Foreign Service Officer, class of Minister Counselor (FE/MC).

About Mr. Shinnick, The Skeptical Bureaucrat writes:

[…] Richard Shinnick, a retired very senior management officer who served as Interim Director of the Office of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO) a few years ago, where he picked up the pieces after General Williams marched off to do whatever it is he’s doing now.

Mr. Shinnick (it is a mark of my regard for the man that I always think of him as “Mister” Shinnick) was a New York City firefighter before he became an FSO, and I remember him as a pillar of commonsense and good judgment back in the era of the first big push to increase security of our overseas missions during the late 80s and early 90s.

Catherine Bertini

She is a Professor of Public Administration and International Affairs at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.  She was the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Program from 1992 to 2002. During the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, Ms. Bertini served as Acting Assistant Secretary of the Family Support Administration in the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and as Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Food and Consumer Services at the United States Department of Agriculture. She was appointed a member of the Board of International Food and Agricultural Development, which advises USAID by President George W. Bush and reappointed by President Obama in 2011.

Hugh J. Turner III

A former deputy director of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations under George J. Tenet. He reportedly represents the intelligence community on the Board.

Executive Secretary to the Board(no info publicly available at this time).
Updated @ 10/8 –– I understand that Uzra Zeya was appointed Executive Secretary to the Pickering Board.  Ms. Zeya is currently the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.  She has over two decades of policy experience in the Department, where she has focused on the Near East and South Asia regions and multilateral affairs. Since joining the Foreign Service in 1990, Ms. Zeya’s overseas assignments have included Paris, Muscat, Damascus, Cairo, and Kingston. Ms. Zeya served most recently as Chief of Staff to Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, where she supported a range of policy initiatives, ranging from the U.S. response to transitions in the Middle East to deepening engagement with emerging global powers. Prior to that, Ms. Zeya served as Minister Counselor for Political Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. In Washington, she served as a Deputy Executive Secretary to Secretaries Rice and Clinton, as Director of the Executive Secretariat Staff, and as UNGA coordinator for the International Organizations bureau.

US Consulate Mazar-e-Sharif: $80 Million and Wishful Thinking Down the Drain, and Not a Brake Too Soon

We have written previously about the US Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif in September 2009 (see New US Consulates Opening in Afghanistan) and December 2009 (see US Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif Moving Forward)

Also read The Skeptical Bureaucrat post in December 2009 (see DIY Home Renovation Opportunity in Mazar-e-Sharif) with photos. He described the Mazar Hotel as a “bit of a fixer-upper, but $26 million in U.S. taxpayer’s money ought to do wonders for the place.” He added that “The hotel’s pool is a big selling point. Full disclosure: the pool has no filter or purification system, so the water has to be changed every few days.”

It turns out that $26 million plus much more, now at $80 million did wonders for the place, but now WaPo is reporting that “American officials say they have abandoned their plans, deeming the location for the proposed compound too dangerous.”

Pardon us, but, but — who said that?

Excerpt below from Ernesto Londoño’s piece from WP, May 5:

“After signing a 10-year lease and spending more than $80 million on a site envisioned as the United States’ diplomatic hub in northern Afghanistan, American officials say they have abandoned their plans, deeming the location for the proposed compound too dangerous.

Eager to raise an American flag and open a consulate in a bustling downtown district of the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif, officials in 2009 sought waivers to stringent State Department building rules and overlooked significant security problems at the site, documents show. The problems included relying on local building techniques that made the compound vulnerable to a car bombing, according to an assessment by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that was obtained by The Washington Post.”

We imagine that Diplomatic Security will soon have another task added to its investigations – in addition to who leak the Eikenberry cables, then the Crocker cable — now, who leaked the US Consulate Mazar assessment by an acting management counselor out of the embassy in Kabul?

Wishful thinking down the drain-

The plan for the Mazar-e Sharif consulate, as laid out in a previously undisclosed diplomatic memorandum, is a cautionary tale of wishful thinking, poor planning and the type of stark choices the U.S. government will have to make in coming years as it tries to wind down its role in the war.

In March 2009, Richard C. Holbrooke, who had recently been appointed President Obama’s envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, lobbied for the establishment of a consulate in Mazar-e Sharif within 60 days, according to the memo.
“At the time, [Holbrooke] pushed hard to identify property and stand up an interim consulate, on a very tight timeline, to signal our commitment to the Afghan people,” according to the January memo by Martin Kelly, the acting management counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
The embassy memo says the facility was far from ideal from the start. The compound, which housed a hotel when the Americans took it on, shared a wall with local shopkeepers. The space between the outer perimeter wall and buildings inside — a distance known as “setback” in war zone construction — was not up to U.S. diplomatic standards set by the State Department’s Overseas Security Policy Board. The complex was surrounded by several tall buildings from which an attack could easily be launched.
“The Department nonetheless granted exceptions to standards to move forward quickly, establish an interim presence and raise the flag,” Kelly wrote.

Cutting corners in a war zone = presumably deadly consequences, if you work there

“Among the corners cut in the interest of expediency, the memo says, was failing to assess how well the facility could withstand a car bombing, a task normally carried out by the department’s Bureau of Overseas Building Operations.
Responding effectively to an emergency at the consulate would be next to impossible, Kelly noted, because the facility does not have space for a Black Hawk helicopter to land. It would take a military emergency response team 11 / 2 to 2 hours to reach the site “under good conditions,” he said.”

Then there is the embarrassing part – they know what you’re up to —

“In December, embassy officials began exploring alternative short-term sites for their diplomatic staff in northern Afghanistan. A Western diplomat familiar with the situation said the United States has sought, so far in vain, to persuade the German and Swedish governments to sublet it. The diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the matter, said European diplomats have found the prospect laughable.”

Read the full piece here.

Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and his wife Ching, along with a delegation of U.S. Embassy staff took a trip to Mazar-e-Sharif and met with Afghan officials. While there they visited the future site of a new U.S. consulate – 30 Mar 2011.
(Photo from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr)

Photo from State Magazine

A quick search online indicate that the U.S. Embassy Mazar Consulate Project had a project date of Jan-2010 to Mar-2011.  Below is a description of the project posted online by Elite Construction:

“The scope of this project consisted of converting an existing Hotel structure to accommodate the U.S. Consulate in Mazar. This included the replacement of all infrastructure including water, sewer, electrical and communications facilities while maintaining the Architectural and structural systems of the building in accordance with U.S. Building Codes.”

Of course, while it is being built, there is also a need for a Temporary US Consulate, that contract apparently is held by JF Jones Company. (Correction: The Mazar Hotel is the temp Consulate, not sure who gets what of the pieces of this pie. A permanent consulate is on the design/build docket reportedly for 2017).

Then there are other companies doing the food and life support for consulate staff, security, concrete operation (photo), etc. They all add up.

Photo from State Magazine

A few thoughts occurred to us, some totally jaded:

1. Did anybody pause and thought, wait a minute, cutting corners in a war zone sounds totally loony? Right.

2. Did anyone write a dissent cable after building rule waivers were sought and granted? Yes? No? Good luck digging that up?

3. Perhaps a troubled conscience made somebody leaked this document to the Washington Post? Albeit too late to shave and save a few millions from the $80 million tab. But let’s give credit where credit is due, no one has died yet at the old Mazar Hotel, now new US Consulate and soon to be known as Holbrooke’s Folly, Eikenberry’s Folly, Clinton’s Folly, etc, but perhaps not Crocker’s Folly.

4. The report says that “After Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker arrived in Kabul in July, officials asked the bureau to conduct a blast assessment.”  Who were these officials? Were they newly arrived officials who were shocked out of their eyeballs when they saw the project?  Why did embassy officials not ask the bureau to conduct the assessment during Ambassador Eikenberry’s tenure, before the renovation got to the $80 million figure? What, no balls? Pardon me? Oh, no one wants to rock the boat?

5. $80 million is a lot of money; money that could build a school or two elsewhere in the United States, fund policemen, firemen, and teachers in some communities hurting across America.  It could feed our hungry kids, too, no kidding. Or it could also buy a lot of properties on the Monopoly board.

6. The raise the flag consulate as a signal to the Afghan people was more important than the safety of diplomatic personnel, in no less than a war zone? The same folks given a few hours of target practice at home and then sent off to the war zone equipped with thumbs and forefingers as guns.

7. Motive. Motive. Motive. Every leak has a motive, and that’s missing from the WaPo report.  And to borrow a quote from good old Sherlock, “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth” Holmes — there has to be a naked truth hiding behind this $80 million scratch off leak. Why was this leaked now? It’s not to save $80 million dollars.  Someone ought to complete Mr. Londoño’s piece, and answer the “Why?”

Domani Spero

Update: You may also want to read The Skeptical Bureaucrat’s Mazar-e-Sharif – The Mud, The Manure, And The Money and Peter Van Buren’s Wishful Thinking and Poor Planning: State Department Wastes $80 Million in Afghanistan over at HuffPo.





US ConGen Lahore: Man in jail and protecting our so called "strategic partnership"?

The original title of this blog post which you might see in your RSS feed has been changed to reflect a less freaked out brain with obviously, more oxygen.

The Daily Times reported that a judicial magistrate on Friday handed over US national, Raymond David, involved in the killing of two alleged robbers in the street of Lahore, to police on six-day physical remand.

The accused, who was presented before the court amid strict security in an armoured personnel carrier, told the court that he killed both persons in self-defence.

Meanwhile, the United States said on Thursday that it would try hard to ensure there was no anti-American backlash from a shooting incident in which a US Consulate worker was charged with the murder of two Pakistani men.

“We want to make sure that a tragedy like this does not affect the strategic partnership that we’re building with Pakistan,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.

“We produced the American in the court of magistrate Zafar Iqbal, who remanded him into police custody for six days,” senior police official, Zulfiqar Hameed, told AFP, adding that David would appear in court again on Thursday.

Read more here.

State Department officials are still mum on the identity of the employee involved. The Skeptical Bureaucrat who has covered this unfolding event from the start has an anonymous/unconfirmed  tip on how this went down.  He also writes that the consulate employee has now been identified as Steve David. A person who was obviously trying to blend in, he even wears his blue badge?

It sounds like the American employee is in local police custody for a least six days (correct us if we’re reading this wrong). The report also does not indicate whether the accused was in court with a local lawyer to represent him.  Another employee will reportedly be handed over to the local authorities. Good luck hiring drivers afterwards!   

There are, of course, many things we don’t know about this case, including the diplomatic status of this employee.  He is, according to the official statement from the State Department spokesman, is a civilian employee of the US Government. We don’t know if he has diplomatic immunity or not, if that has been waived or not.  But this we know on the premise that he is a government employee — he is in Lahore, Pakistan on official orders of the United States Government.

But wait – what’s this?

ABC News is reporting that the employee in the shooting incident is private security officer Raymond Davis.  The report made note that the U.S. State Department and Pakistani officials are still at odds over the identity of the employee but identifies Davis as the person who runs Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC, a company that provides “loss and risk management professionals.”  ABC News also points out since it is not known in what capacity Davis was working for the government, it is not clear whether he is entitled to diplomatic immunity.

Well, there you go — the next time you get PJ Crowley on the podium, would you please ask him what he means exactly by “employee.”

It is no secret that America’s overall image remains negative in Pakistan.  Last year’s Pew Research Survey indicates that only 17% of Pakistanis have a favorable view of the United States. Roughly six-in-ten (59%) Pakistanis also describe the U.S. as an enemy, while just 11% say it is a partner.

Shortly after this incident occurred, Lahore police chief Aslam Tareen said the man was being questioned by the police and may be charged with both murder and illegally carrying a weapon: a Beretta pistol. The American shot both men after they pointed guns at him at an intersection, Tareen said.  “Diplomatic staff usually enjoy a certain type of immunity, but I am not sure about murder,” he said. “We will consult the Foreign Office and legal advisers in this regard.”

No pause about completing an investigation first. No question or doubt whether this was self defense as the accused claimed.  No matter what circumstances surrounds this case, it looks like most people have already prejudge this as murder. Make that double murder with a strong dash of prejudice.

The Punjab law minister, Rana Sana Ullah told the media: “We fear that the U.S. national was on some secret mission in that area that is why he was so over active and frightened.”

So first a double murderer, and now also a spy. If he is found carrying multiple foreign passports, he would be Jason Bourne in person.  

Did not help that a retired Diplomatic Security counterterrorism specialist speculates “that the American involved in a fatal shootout in Lahore, Pakistan, was the victim of a spy meeting gone awry, not the target of a robbery or car-jacking attempt.”

The father of one of the deceased victims was now quoted as saying: “We want justice. We will not allow government to sell the blood of our son. The killer should be hanged.”

Would this American “employee” now accused of a double murder even get a fair trial in that kind of environment?  That he was transported in an armoured personnel carrier should give us pause. Who is representing the American employee’s interest in court? Is somebody from the consulate doing jail visits the next six days? We don’t want him meeting an accident while in custody.   

If you work for US Mission Pakistan and your work requires that you make trips around the city or the country, make sure you request a helicopter for your next transport. The last we heard air traffic is not as bad.  Otherwise, it’s probably best to stay put right now. 

Because we got this question in our my mailbox:

“If my my spouse and/or I get into a car accident and someone gets hurt, will the State Department just abandon us over to the local authorities?”  

An excellent, excellent question.

The federal government apparently can choose whether or not to defend you.  Of course, we doubt if anyone would answer any hypotheticals, much less put that in writing. But FS personnel assigned to U.S. embassies and consulates should still consult with appropriate officials of the mothership regarding authoritative information on diplomatic and consular immunities.

That said, US Diplomacy has a cautionary tale on diplomatic immunity and accidents overseas:

While the duties of a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) may be clearly defined by the State Department, his or her immunities and privileges should not be taken for granted.  Even when the Foreign Ministry of a country may be fully aware of this dimension of diplomatic practice, successfully claiming such immunities in the case of an accident or other emergency situation may well depend on the willingness of local officials to honor them. 

Moreover, depending on whether official duties or functions are involved, the Department of State may or may not come to the defense of U.S. Government employees faced with lawsuits. For example, Douglas Kent, U.S. consul general in Vladivostok, was involved in a car accident in October 1998 while driving home from his office.  After Kent left the post on reassignment, a Russian citizen injured in the accident sued Kent in his individual capacity in a district court in California.  According to an August 31, 2006, “AFSANET” message from the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), “The Department of Justice with State Department concurrence refused to certify that Kent was acting within the scope of his employment when the accident occurred,” thus undermining his claim of immunity.  Ultimately, with AFSA supporting FSO Kent’s legal defense, the case went to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, which ruled in his favor by determining that he was acting within the scope of his employment when the accident took place. 

The Kent case clearly demonstrates that while Foreign Service personnel, especially those in senior positions, may consider themselves on duty 24 hours a day while stationed overseas and thus fully protected, particular circumstances may put those immunities at risk.  The case also points to the necessity for all employees who drive overseas to have fully adequate personal/automobile liability insurance coverage (which Mr. Kent did not have).

See AFSA’s report on this case in 2006 here: The CG Is on Duty 24/7: Court Agrees.

This one should be essential reading in A-100 except it might demoralized the new employees: KASHIN v. KENT | US Court of Appeals, 9th Circuit | 2006

While you’re thinking about this, best check all your insurance coverage, including your professional liability insurance.

Yes, an American civilian employee was involved in Lahore shooting, but it’s not Raymond Davis ….

As can be expected, the Lahore incident made it to the Daily Press Brief with PJ Crowley. He confirmed that 1) an American employee was involved in the shooting, 2) the employee is a civilian, and 3) the name floated around in the news report is “not correct.”

From the Daily Press Brief, January 27:

QUESTION: A new topic. What can you tell us about this Raymond Davis, the – who works at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore and who apparently shot and killed two would-be robbers? What’s his position there? Does he have diplomatic immunity?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, let me say three things. First, I can confirm that an employee at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore was involved in an incident today. It is under investigation. We have not released the identity of our employee at this point. And reports of a particular identity that are circulating through the media are incorrect.

QUESTION: What does that mean? You mean the name?

MR. CROWLEY: I mean the name’s wrong.

QUESTION: The name that – the name that Michele —

MR. CROWLEY: The name that’s out there is wrong.

QUESTION: The name that was just mentioned?

MR. CROWLEY: Including that one.

QUESTION: The one that I just used —


QUESTION: — is wrong?

QUESTION: Is wrong?

MR. CROWLEY: Not correct.

QUESTION: But what – this – the incident involved, you say, an employee of the consulate. But is this someone who has diplomatic immunity? Is this a diplomat?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, I’m going to leave it there for the moment. As we are able to share greater details with you, we will.

QUESTION: Okay. You said you —

QUESTION: And do you know what this individual was doing out and about that day, why he was driving around?

MR. CROWLEY: Again, this is a matter under investigation.

QUESTION: You said you would say three things. You only said two.

MR. CROWLEY: I said three.

QUESTION: What was the third?

MR. CROWLEY: Confirm the employee – there’s —

QUESTION: One, you confirmed an incident.

MR. CROWLEY: It was an employee working at the consulate.

QUESTION: And two, the identities out there are wrong.

MR. CROWLEY: Two, the matter is under investigation, and —

QUESTION: Well, that doesn’t count. (Laughter.)

MR. CROWLEY: All right.

QUESTION: That doesn’t tell us anything.

MR. CROWLEY: I’ve given you everything I’ve got.

QUESTION: But this is a very sensitive country.

QUESTION: He’s a U.S. national and not a Pakistani national, because you could have Pakistanis —

MR. CROWLEY: He is a U.S. national.


QUESTION: But this is a very sensitive —

MR. CROWLEY: That’s three. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: — a sensitive issue, a sensitive country where anti-Americanism is rife, so —

MR. CROWLEY: I – completely. This is a matter under investigation, and we’ll let the investigation work its course.

QUESTION: And when you say an employee of the consulate, this is a civilian employee, yes? This is not a military person?


QUESTION: And who is doing the investigating? U.S., Pakistani, or both?

MR. CROWLEY: Well, this happened within Pakistan. There’s a Pakistani investigation. We will cooperate fully.

QUESTION: Can you say whether this person was authorized to be carrying a firearm?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not going to say anything else.

QUESTION: Is this person still in Lahore or has he left the country?

MR. CROWLEY: I’m not aware of any movement.

The Skeptical Bureaucrat
has a couple of new posts on this including a video and his thoughts on WaPo’s SpyTalk piece and source.

About an hour ago, BBC also reported that police in Pakistan have now charged an unnamed US consular official with double murder after they say he shot and killed two motorcycle riders in the eastern city of Lahore. The BBC coverage includes a local video.

The Times of India later reported that a large number of motorists and locals were reported to have gathered outside Lahore’s Old Anarkali police station and blocked the road by burning tyres.

One local Twitter user writes: “There is a rule of thumb for the mob here.Whosoever drives the larger/bigger vehicle is always the bad guy.”

The US Embassy in Islamabad would only confirm that the person involved in this incident is an employee of the consulate and that they are working with Pakistani authorities to investigate the matter.

US ConGen Karachi moves to New Consulate Compound …

NCC already overpopulated before completion

The US Consulate General in Karachi which faced numerous delays in the construction of its new consulate compound (NCC) due to difficulties with the customs clearances and other bureaucratic obstacles finally move to its new digs this past week.

Below is a photo of the staff as the American flag was lowered for the last time at the old Consulate building in Karachi, which was once a warehouse. According to the OIG: “The consulate general is currently operating out of what was once the consulate’s warehouse. To better ensure the safety of staff, the original consulate building was abandoned several years ago, and an extensive rehabilitation of a temporary location in a more secure portion of the compound was undertaken, pending the construction of the NCC in a different part of Karachi. The original consulate building is now used as setback between the temporary office building and a major road. The facilities maintenance staff has done an admirable job of converting the temporary office building into a user-friendly, comfortable working space, despite the fact that the building was never intended to be used for offices and has insufficient space for operations.”

TSB at The Skeptical Bureaucrat has posted the scars and long history of the old consulate building in an Obituary For A Consulate Office Building. Read it here.

Old consulate building in Karachi
Photo from US CG Karachi/Facebook

So they said goodbye to that one and move into this one, a new consulate compound planned in 2006 long before Pakistan became front and center in the administration’s foreign policy agenda.

Flag ceremony at US ConGen Karachi’s New Consulate Compound
Photo from US CG Karachi/Facebook

Last year, the OIG noted that the 2006 plans for the NCC did not anticipate the explosive growth that Karachi faced. We understand that by next fiscal year, Karachi will increase from 33 to 55 U.S. direct-hire positions and from 170 to 191 LE staff. Also from the OIG: “USAID is proposing to send 19 additional employees to Karachi to support a high-profile foreign assistance agenda. A number of other agencies are also looking to expand their presence in Karachi. The consulate estimates that it will require an additional 24 desks and 28 residential housing units by the time the new facility opens. In short, the NCC has become overpopulated before completion.”

So there, you just got a new NCC and it’s already crowded beyond capacity.  We do not envy you guys for your brand new headache.