D/Secretary Swears In New Ambassador to Ghana Stephanie S. Sullivan

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US Embassy Kinshasa on Ordered Departure For Non-Emergency Staff/Family Members #DRC

On December 14, the State Department issued a Level 3 Travel Advisory for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) urging American travelers to reconsider travel there due to “crime and civil unrest.” The advisory also announced that the Embassy’s non-emergency personnel and their family members were on mandatory evacuation order. 

We’re not sure if the staff/family members will be safehavened in the region or if they were ordered to return to the U.S. We will update if we know more. If you’re in the FS community and in the DC area, you may check with AAFSW; they may need help.  The group runs an Evacuee Support Network that offers assistance to Foreign Service employees and family members evacuated from posts overseas through a dedicated network of volunteers in the Washington, DC area.

Reconsider travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) due to crime and civil unrest.  Some areas have increased risk.  Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Do not travel to:

  • Eastern DRC and the three Kasai provinces due to armed conflict.

Violent crime, such as armed robbery, armed home invasion, sexual assault, and physical assault, is common.  Assailants may pose as police or security agents.  Local police lack the resources to respond effectively to serious crime.

Many cities throughout the country experience demonstrations, some of which have been violent.  The government has responded with heavy-handed tactics that have resulted in civilian casualties and arrests.

On December 14, 2018, the Department ordered the departure of non-emergency U.S. government employees and family members.

The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens outside of Kinshasa due to extremely limited infrastructure and poor security conditions, notably in eastern DRC and Kasais.

More here: https://cd.usembassy.gov/news-events/

An Embassy Security Alert dated December 16 “strongly urges U.S. citizens to depart the country and take advantage of departing commercial flights.”  The Embassy’s once more emphasized that its ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in the DRC is severely limited, particularly outside of Kinshasa.  It also notes that “elections are scheduled to take place on December 23 and could trigger large-scale demonstrations which could further limit the services of consular staff even in Kinshasa.”

US Formally Returns #BalangigaBells to the Philippines

State Department’s Robert Palladino who “serves as the @StateDept Deputy Spokesperson under the leadership of the 70th Secretary of State @SecPompeo announced at the Daily Press Briefing, December 11, 2018 the formal return of the Balangiga Bells to the Philippines:

I am pleased to announce that on December 11th, the United States formally returned the bells of Balangiga to the Philippines in a handover ceremony in Manila attended by Philippine Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim. The decision follows an extensive consultative process with associated United States veterans organizations and state government officials in accordance with legislative – American legislative requirements to ensure appropriate steps are taken to preserve the history of American service members associated with the bells. Philippine Government officials will transport the bells to the church from which they were removed over 100 years ago, where they will be treated with respect and honor they deserve.

The return of the bells of Balangiga demonstrates the enduring strength of the United States-Philippines alliance and the deep bonds of friendship between the peoples of our nations as we work together to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific. From World War II to today’s struggle to defeat ISIS and the scourge of terrorism, our nations have stood side by side. As we close the painful chapter in our shared history, our relationship has withstood the test of time and flourishes today. As an ally and friend of the Philippines, we will forever honor and respect this shared history.

See our previous post: U.S. to Return the #BalangigaBells to the Philippines After 117 Years

Yo! The Thing. Still Going on in China

We understand that there are still “a lot of curtailments” continuing out of China even now because “The Thing” is still going on according to a note in our mailbox.

In January 2018, the SFRC’s had a Subcommittee Hearing Attacks on U.S. Diplomats in Cuba: Response and Oversight. In September 2018, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting that the Trump administration provide an unclassified version of the State Department’s recent Accountability Review Board (ARB) report on the incidents affecting the health of U.S. personnel serving in Cuba. We have not been able to locate any congressional oversight hearings on the incident in China.  We don’t know if there is an ARB China. If an ARB was convened on the health attacks in China, there does not appear to be any public notification. 

In late October, an NBC News investigation indicates that US diplomats are concerned that the State Department is down-playing a pattern of what’s been called “health attacks” on diplomatic staff in Cuba and China. (see Is @StateDept Working to Minimize the Health Attacks in China? #Cuba #MissingARBs). If curtailments are still going on, that indicates that USG employees and family members in one of our largest overseas missions remain in harm’s way, so who’s talking about it?  Somebody please ask your friendly senior administration official what are they doing about it. Three years ago, we would have had back to back congressional hearings not just on the Havana Syndrome, but also on the China Syndrome, and on the State Department’s response to these attacks. Can we please have some oversight hearings in January, pretty please?   

Via Giphy

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This one about Canadian diplomats and their families. G&M reports that  nine Canadian adults and four children have been diagnosed with the brain injuries. “The Canadians who were affected in 2017 are all in Canada and still employed by Global Affairs, although several are unable to work because of their symptoms.”

Pompeo Convenes ARB Guadalajara For Jan 2017 Attack on USG Employee

On November 8, the Federal Register published a notice that an Accountability Review Board (ARB) for a security incident where a U.S. national attempted to murder a U.S. diplomat in Guadalajara, Mexico had been convened:

On June 1, 2018, Secretary Pompeo authorized the convening of an Accountability Review Board (ARB) to review a January 2017 attack on a U.S. government employee in Guadalajara, Mexico. Pursuant to Section 304 of the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986, as amended (22 U.S.C. 4834), the ARB will examine the facts and circumstances, and report findings and recommendations as it deems appropriate, in keeping with its mandate. (see American Diplomat Wounded in Targeted Attack in #Guadalajara, Mexico). Last month, the assailant was sentenced to 22 years (see U.S. National Sentenced to 22 Years For Attempted Murder of U.S. Diplomat in Mexico).

The notice includes the composition of the ARB:

Secretary has appointed Lisa Kubiske, a retired U.S. Ambassador, as Chair of the Board. The other Board members are retired Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, retired Ambassador Joan Plaisted, Ms. Carol Gallo, and Mr. John DeSalvio. They bring to their deliberations distinguished backgrounds in government service.

According to the notice, the Board “will submit its conclusions and recommendations to Secretary Pompeo within 60 days of its first meeting, unless the Chair determines a need for additional time. Within the timeframes required by statute following receipt of the report, the Department will report to Congress on recommendations made by the Board and action taken with respect to those recommendations.”

12 FAM 030 on the ARB provides that “The Secretary must convene a Board not later than 60 days after the occurrence of an incident, except that such 60-day period may be extended for one additional 60-day period if the Secretary determines that the additional period is necessary for the convening of the Board.”  The attack occurred in January 2017; we have not been able to locate a notice of an ARB for this incident authorized by Tillerson. Pompeo assumed office in Foggy Bottom on April 26, 2018. ARB Guadalajara was authorized on June 1, 2018, some 17 months after the incident, but less than 60 days from Pompeo’s taking office. 

There is a provision in the regs for a delay in convening an ARB; we can’t tell if the delay here was under this provision or simply because Tillerson’s tenure was beset by chaos: With respect to breaches of security involving intelligence activities, the Secretary may delay the convening of a Board, if, after consultation with the chair of the Select Committee on Intelligence of the Senate and the chair of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence of the House of Representatives, the Secretary determines that the establishment of a Board would compromise intelligence sources or methods.  The Secretary must promptly advise the chairs of such committees of each determination to delay the establishment of a Board. 

In any case, we’re still interested in learning more about what happened to ARB Guadalajara. If it’s been concluded, has it been forwarded to Congress? 

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Presidential Casting: Heather Nauert to the UN

On December 7, President Trump announced via tweet his intent to nominate State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert to be the next Ambassador to the United Nations.  Ms. Nauert was previously a news correspondent and a Fox & Friends presenter prior to her appointment in Foggy Bottom. If confirmed, Ms. Nauert would replace Ambassador Nikki Haley who is expected to step down at the end of 2018. There is word that this position will once more be downgraded to a non-cabinet post after Haley’s departure. 

The U.S. Mission to the United Nations was formally established by E.O. 9844 of April 28, 1947. The Chief of Mission has the title of Representative of the U.S.A. to the United Nations, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, and Representative of the U.S.A. in the Security Council of the United Nations. 

The first U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations was the 48th Secretary of State Edward Reilly Stettinius Jr. (1945-1946). According to history.state.gov:

As Secretary of State, Stettinius accompanied President Roosevelt to the Yalta Conference in February of 1945, where they met with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin to discuss issues such as the Pacific War with Japan, the future political status of Eastern Europe, and what should be done with Germany following its surrender. Stettinius also chaired the United States delegation to the United Nations Conference, held in San Francisco from April 25 to June 26, 1945, which brought together delegates from 50 Allied nations to create the United Nations. He resigned his position as Secretary of State on June 27, 1945, to become the first U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, a post which he held until resigning in June 1946 over what he saw as President Truman’s refusal to use the United Nations forum to resolve growing Soviet-American tensions.

Prior appointees to this position include Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. (1953–1960), a former senator and nominee for Vice President. He went on to four ambassadorial appointments and as personal representative of the president to the Holy See after his UN tenure. Former President George Herbert Walker Bush served as Representative of the U.S.A. to the United Nations from 1971 to 1973.

Career diplomat Charles Woodruff Yost (1969–1971) was a three-time ambassador with a personal rank of Career Ambassador prior to his UN appointment. Career diplomat Thomas Reeve Pickering (1989–1992) was a four-time ambassador, and assistant secretary of state with a personal rank of Career Ambassador prior to his appointment to the UN. John Dimitri Negroponte (2001–2004), a career diplomat served as an assistant secretary and was confirmed three times previously as ambassador prior to his appointment to the UN.

Madeleine Korbel Albright (1993–1997), the first woman Secretary of State previously served as chief legislative assistant to Senator Edmund Muskie (D-Me) from 1976 to 1978. From 1978 to 1981, she served as a staff member in the White House under President Jimmy Carter and on the National Security Council under National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski. Richard Charles Albert Holbrooke (1999–2001) served twice as assistant secretary of state and was an ambassador prior to his UN appointment. 

Folks are up in arms with this appointment for good reasons.  Sometimes — when the U.S. Senate actually takes seriously its exclusive right under Article II, Section 2 “to provide advice and consent” to the president on nominations — things do work out for the best and save us some embarrassment (remember the “tråkket i salaten”?). Other times, it doesn’t, unfortunately. But here’s the thing: this nominee is from presidential central casting; unless Trump changes his mind, this nomination is going forward. Also come January, there is an an enlarged Republican majority in the U.S. Senate.  It is likely that that she will get some hot grilling in the Senate from the Democratic side and the GOP will attempt to show some …um, equal fire in the process.  But it would take GOP senators to sink this nomination. And that’s probably not going to happen. 

Heather Nauert Nomination: Reactions

USAID Prepares to Shrink #WestBank/Gaza Presence, Pompeo Visits @USAID HQ

 

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US Embassy Kinshasa Remains Closed to the Public For Sixth Day Over Terror Threat #DRC

 

On December 2, the US Embassy Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced that it will be closed to the public again due to a terrorist threat against USG facilities in the capital city. Below is part of the announcement:

The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa is working closely with the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo to address a terrorist threat against USG facilities in Kinshasa.  The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa will be closed to the public on Monday, December 3.

 Actions to Take:

·        Maintain a heightened level of vigilance and practice good situational awareness.

·         Monitor local media for updates.

·         Keep a low profile and notify friends and family of your safety.

·         Review the country page  and remain alert for potentially dangerous situations.

US Embassy Kinshasha previously “received credible and specific information of a possible terrorist threat against U.S. Government facilities in Kinshasa” on November 24, 2018. It initially closed to the public with only minimal staffing on Monday, November 26, 2018.

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Pompeo Talks Up Saudi “Investment” in Yemen, and USG’s “Additional” $131M Assistance #ExcludingArms

 

On November 28, the Secretary of State told the world that “Saudi Arabia has invested billions to relive suffering in Yemen.” Pretty soon,  Saudi Arabia’s spokesman would not have a job anymore.

The Guardian reported that in 2017, the Yemen appeal for $2.5bn was only 73% funded, but that the needs have intensified in a country battered since 2015 by a Saudi-led military offensive aimed at repelling Iran-backed Houthi rebels who control the capital. In April this year, during a UN donor conference for people affected by war in Yemen – labelled as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” – has received pledges of more than $2bn, close to half of which is promised by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two key protagonists in the conflict, according to the same report. Click here for the OCHA page for pledges and paid contributions for Yemen.

On October 24, 2017, U.S. Ambassador Matthew H. Tueller re-issued a disaster declaration for the ongoing complex emergency in Yemen for FY 2018 due to “continued humanitarian needs resulting from the complex emergency and the impact of the country’s political and economic crises on vulnerable populations.”  USAID’s November 9, 2018 Factsheet on Yemen Disaster Assistance indicates that the United States humanitarian funding for the Yemen response in FY2018 is $566,273,269 (includes funding through the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), the Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP), and the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (State/PRM)).  Secretary Pompeo’s tweet on November 28 says that the United States is providing an “additional” $131 million in food assistance to Yemen.

According to the CRS, since March 2015, the U.S.-trained Saudi military has used U.S.-origin weaponry, U.S. logistical assistance, and shared intelligence in support of military operations in Yemen. Excerpt:

In May 2017, President Trump signaled a continuation and deepening of bilateral defense cooperation, announcing completed and proposed defense sales during his visit to Riyadh with a potential value of more than $110 billion. The sales include cases that the Obama Administration had proposed and notified to Congress, cases developed under the Obama Administration on which Congress had been preliminarily consulted, and new sales that remain under development.
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The United States’ role in supporting the Saudi-led coalition’s military operations in Yemen has evolved over time. 65 At present, it consists of some intelligence sharing, aerial refueling, and the deployment of advisers to Saudi Arabia for border security and anti-ballistic missile purposes.66 In his latest biannual War Powers letters to Congress on the deployment of U.S. forces abroad in combat operations (P.L. 93-148), President Trump informed Congress about ongoing U.S. counterterrorism operations in Yemen and stated that U.S. forces in noncombat roles were providing “military advice and limited information, logistics, and other support to regional forces combatting the Houthi insurgency.”

So, on one hand, we’re supporting the side that’s indiscriminately bombing hospitals, school buses and children, and on the other hand, we’re spending millions of dollars for food and humanitarian assistance to help those who are bombed and starved.  Also, our Secretary of Swagger did not just announced the additional millions in food assistance but also cited “our generous example” in “galvanizing humanitarian assistance.” When is this going up on Instagram, people?

By the way, the most recent USAID/OFDA official said “no amount of aid money can prevent this famine” and that absent massive political pressure on the Saudi, this is just “window dressing.” 

Related item: Saudi Arabia: Background and U.S. Relations (PDF) | Updated September 21, 2018 (Congressional Research Service).

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