Zalmay Khalilzad Out, Thomas West In as Special Representative for Afghanistan

 

Via state.gov:
As Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad steps down from his role, I extend my gratitude for his decades of service to the American people. 
Thomas West, who previously served as the Deputy Special Representative, will be the Special Representative for Afghanistan.  Special Representative West, who served on then-Vice President Biden’s national security team and on the National Security Council staff, will lead diplomatic efforts, advise the Secretary and Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, and coordinate closely with the U.S. Embassy Kabul presence in Doha on America’s interests in Afghanistan.  
I thank Ambassador Khalilzad for his service and welcome Special Representative West to the role.
Below is a longer bio via Carnegie where Thomas West previously served as a Nonresident Scholar for the South Asia Program:
Tom West was a nonresident scholar in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and an associate vice president at the Cohen Group.
West served for ten years in the U.S. Department of State and at the White House, working on South Asia and Middle East issues. From 2012 to 2015, he served on the National Security Council (NSC) as director for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and as a special adviser to Vice President Joseph Biden. He served a concurrent stint as the NSC’s director for Yemen. From 2011 to 2012, West served as the State Department’s senior diplomat in the Kunar province of Afghanistan, where he managed the civilian staff of a U.S.-led provincial reconstruction team. He worked at the State Department in Washington on a variety of issues, including the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Initiative, Washington’s response to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, and U.S.-Pakistan relations. He also served as a political officer in Islamabad and Karachi.
West received his BA in international studies from the Johns Hopkins University and an MA in international relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). 

US Embassy Kabul Suspends Operations on 8/31/21; Next, the Afghanistan Affairs Unit in Qatar?

 

The US Embassy in Kabul issued a Security Message announcing its suspension of operations:
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul suspended operations on August 31, 2021.  While the U.S. government has withdrawn its personnel from Kabul, we will continue to assist U.S. citizens and their families in Afghanistan from Doha, Qatar.
After 20 years, one ‘forever’ war finally ended and one of the largest US embassies in the world just closed its doors.
We are assuming that the US Embassy Kabul will now transition to the Afghanistan Affairs Unit (AAU) operating out of the US Embassy Doha in Qatar. This is a guess given the precedence with four other remote units after the suspension of diplomatic operations in Yemen, Venezuela, Libya, and much earlier, Somalia.

— Yemen Affairs Unit (Remote Mission Site: U.S. Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)

— Venezuela Affairs Unit (Remote Mission Site: U.S. Embassy Bogota, Colombia)
— Libya External Office (Remote Mission Site: U.S. Embassy Tunis, Tunisia))
U.S. Embassy Mogadishu, Somalia (Remote Mission Site: U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya) – the Department officially established Embassy Mogadishu as a permanent post in 2019. The IG says that although the  Somalia Unit no longer exists as a remote mission, some staff continue to be based at Embassy Nairobi, and Embassy Mogadishu continues to rely on Embassy Nairobi for support services.
According to the IG audit, the VAU has been open for  almost 2 years; the YAU has been open for more than 6 years; and the Libya External Office has been  open for almost 7 years. The Somalia Unit operated from U.S. Embassy Nairobi, Kenya, for more than  9 years before the Department reestablished a permanent diplomatic presence in Somalia.
The most recent OIG report we could locate for Qatar is dated 2010. At that time, the OIG describes Embassy Doha as a mid-size embassy, with a staff of 82 U.S. direct-hire person­nel, 113 foreign national staff, and 11 locally hired American personnel. No Qatari citizens are employed by the mission. Operations under chief of mission authority include representatives from the Department of Defense, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Foreign Commercial Service. Operating budgets for U.S. Gov­ernment agencies under chief of mission authority total approximately $13.7 million.  Post is likely supersized already. We just don’t know by how many. Would be interested to see what the staffing pattern is going to be like for the AAU in Doha.

From way, way back in 2015:

Related posts:

WaPo: Surprise, Panic and Fateful Choices, the Fall of Kabul

 

Tuesday before the fall of Kabul, the U.S. Senate had just confirmed the nominations of Consular Affairs Assistant Secretary Rena Bitter and Diplomatic Security Assistant Secretary Gentry Smith. There is no Senate confirmed official for the Bureau of Administration, the agency’s logistics arm. There is no Senate confirmed official for the Under Secretary for Management, the umbrella office that provides leadership to 10 bureaus; a post currently encumbered by an Acting/M.
On August 18, three days after the fall of Kabul, the State Department announced that President Biden’s “M” nominee will be sent to Kabul (@StateDept Sends M Nominee John Bass to Kabul to Leverage “Logistics Experience” in Evacuation). In the coming days, there will likely be a louder push to examine the evacuation from Kabul. Some will be politically-motivated; we’re already seeing shades of Benghazi in online rhetoric.  For people living in the rational  universe, it would still be important to understand what happened there, how it happened, and why.
WaPo has a ‘must-read’ account on the fall of Kabul.  We would like to see the tic-toc inside Foggy Bottom during these fateful days. As P/Nuland was frantically calling foreign ministers to ask them to help with evacuation efforts, what was happening elsewhere?

On the Friday afternoon before Kabul fell, the White House was starting to empty out, as many of the senior staff prepared to take their first vacations of Biden’s young presidency. Earlier in the day, Biden had arrived at Camp David, and Secretary of State Antony Blinken was already in the Hamptons.

But by Saturday, the fall of Mazar-e Sharif — site of furious battles between pro and anti-Taliban forces in the 1990s — convinced U.S. officials that they needed to scramble. How quickly was a subject of dispute between the Pentagon and State Department.

In a conference call with Biden and his top security aides that day, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called for the immediate relocation of all U.S. Embassy personnel to the Kabul airport, according to a U.S. official familiar with the call.

Wilson’s embassy colleagues had been racing to destroy classified documents and equipment in the compound since Friday. An internal memo, obtained by The Washington Post, implored staff to destroy sensitive materials using incinerators, disintegrators and “burn bins.” The directive also called for the destruction of “American flags, or items which could be misused in propaganda efforts.”

Wilson said U.S. personnel needed more time to complete their work. But Austin insisted time had run out, the official said.
[…]
Within the palace, too, the illusion of calm was being punctured. Around midday, much of the staff had been dismissed for lunch. While they were gone, according to officials, a top adviser informed the president that militants had entered the palace and were going room to room looking for him.

That does not appear to have been true. The Taliban had announced that while its fighters were at the edges of Kabul, having entered through the city’s main checkpoints after security forces withdrew, it did not intend to take over violently. There was an agreement in place for a peaceful transition, and the group intended to honor it.

Yet that wasn’t the message that was being delivered to Ghani. The president was told by his closest aides that he needed to get out — fast.
[…]
For the United States, the scope of defeat was total — and was vividly rendered as helicopters evacuated embassy personnel to the airport. Before the American flag was lowered one last time, diplomats engaged in a frenzy of destruction, burning documents and smashing sensitive equipment.

“It was extremely loud,” said a senior U.S. official. “There were controlled fires, the shredding of classified paper documents, and a constant pounding noise from the destruction of hard drives and weapons.”
[…]
At the State Department, top brass, including Wendy Sherman, Blinken’s deputy, and Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of state for political affairs, were frantically calling foreign ministers to ask them to help with evacuation efforts and to coordinate a statement signed by 114 countries urging the Taliban to allow safe passage for evacuees. This, they realized, would be a historic evacuation effort.

US Embassy Kabul Evacuates 2,800 Locally Employed Staff and Families

 

Related:

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US Embassy Kuwait: 850 Americans and Embassy Kabul Staff Transits Via Kuwait

 

 

Snapshot: Afghanistan Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) Issued FY2000-FY2020

 

 

Fiscal Year Visa Statistics
Oct 1-Sept 30

SIVs Issued to Afghanistan

Administration

DPB/Operations Allies Refuge

2,000
(Note: No public data on how many of evacuees are SIVs)

Biden

SIVs FY2021

Jan 20/2021-Sept 30/2021
Oct 1/2020-Jan 20/2021

(Note: Total SIVs will not be available until after 9/30/21)

Biden
Trump

SIVs FY2020
Oct 1-Sept 30

7,878

Trump

SIVs FY2019
Oct 1-Sept 30

9,805

Trump

SIVs FY2018
Oct 1-Sept 30

7,431

Trump

SIVs FY2017

Jan 20/2017-Sept 30/2017
Oct 1/2016-Jan 20/2017

16,370

Trump
Obama

SIVs FY2016
Oct 1-Sept 30

12,298

Obama

SIVs FY2015
Oct 1-Sept 30

6,884

Obama

SIVs FY2014
Oct 1-Sept 30

9,283

Obama

SIVs FY2013
Oct 1-Sept 30

1,597

Obama

SIVs FY2012
Oct 1-Sept 30

237

Obama

SIVs FY2011
Oct 1-Sept 30

121

Obama

SIVs FY2010
Oct 1-Sept 30

111

Obama

SIVs FY2009

Jan 20/2009-Sept 30/2009
Oct 1/2008-Jan 20/2009

680

Obama

Bush GW

SIVs FY2008

Oct 1-Sept 30

817

Bush GW

SIVs FY2007

Oct 1-Sept 30

161

Bush GW

SIVs FY2006

Oct 1-Sept 30

1

Bush GW

SIVs FY2005

Oct 1-Sept 30

1

Bush GW

SIVs FY2004

Oct 1-Sept 30

4

Bush GW

SIVs FY2003

Oct 1-Sept 30

2

Bush GW

SIVs FY2002

Oct 1-Sept 30

0

Bush GW

SIVs FY2001

Jan 20/2001-Sept 30/2001
Oct 1/2000-Jan 20/2001

5

Bush GW
Clinton

SIVs FY2000

Oct 1-Sept 30

3

Clinton

TOTAL SIVs ISSUED

73,689

Compiled by @diplopundit

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Afghanistan: We All Lost, Not an Intelligence Failure, Dissent Cable Leaks

 

Below is an excerpt from We All Lost Afghanistan by Ambassador P. Michael McKinley who served as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan in 2014–16. He was senior advisor to Pompeo until his resignation in October 2019:

“There is one seductive argument made by critics of the withdrawal: that a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan will again become a haven for terrorist groups threatening the security of the United States. This argument is a backhanded acknowledgment that we succeeded in reducing the threat from Afghanistan to minimal levels—the original rationale for U.S. intervention. The sacrifice, however, was significant: more than $1 trillion, the deaths of 2,400 U.S. service members (and thousands of contractors), more than 20,000 wounded Americans.

Perhaps the resurgence of a terrorist threat will develop more quickly under a future Taliban government than it would have otherwise. But to conclude that this outcome demands an indefinite U.S. troop presence would imply that U.S. troops should also be deployed indefinitely in the many other parts of the world where Islamic State (also known as ISIS) and al Qaeda offshoots are active in greater numbers than they are in Afghanistan and pose a greater threat to the United States. Moreover, U.S. capabilities to monitor and strike at terrorist groups have grown exponentially since 2001.

Ultimately, Washington’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops is not the sole or even most important explanation for what is unfolding in Afghanistan today. The explanation lies in 20 years of failed policies and the shortcomings of Afghanistan’s political leadership. We can still hope that we in the United States do not end up in a poisonous debate about “who lost Afghanistan.” But if we do, let’s acknowledge that it was all of us.”

Below is an excerpt from Afghanistan, Not an Intelligence Failure, Something Much Worse by Douglas London (@douglaslondon5) who retired from the CIA in 2019 after 34 years as a Senior Operations Officer, Chief of Station and CIA’s Counterterrorism Chief for South and Southwest Asia:

Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was the principal architect of America’s engagement with the Taliban that culminated with the catastrophic February 2020 withdrawal agreement, terms intended to get the president through the coming elections. Pompeo championed the plan despite the intelligence community’s caution that its two key objectives– securing the Taliban’s commitment to break with al-Qa’ida and pursue a peaceful resolution to the conflict — were highly unlikely.

America’s special representative, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, was a private citizen dabbling on his own in 2018 with a variety of dubious Afghan interlocutors against whom the intelligence community warned, trying opportunistically to get “back inside.” Undaunted, his end around to Pompeo and the White House pledging to secure the deal Trump needed which the president’s own intelligence, military and diplomatic professionals claimed was not possible absent a position of greater strength, was enthusiastically received. Our impression was that Khalilzad was angling to be Trump’s Secretary of State in a new administration, were he to win, and would essentially do or say what he was told to secure his future by pleasing the mercurial president, including his steady compromise of whatever leverage the United States had to incentivize Taliban compromises.

Dissent Cable apparently signed by about two dozen State Department officials who served as the US Embassy in Kabul was reportedly sent last July to Secretary Blinken just leaked.
As per 2FAM 070, immediately upon receipt of all incoming Dissent Channel messages, S/P (Salman Ahmed ) distributes copies to the Secretary (Blinken), the Deputy Secretary (Sherman), the Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources (McKeon), the Under Secretary for Political Affairs (Nuland), the Executive Secretary (Lakhdhir) , and the Chair of the Secretary’s Open Forum (who’s this ?).
If the author of a dissent message is employed by an agency other than the Department of State (e.g., USAID), S/P will also distribute a copy of the Dissent Channel message to the head of that agency. With due regard for the sensitivity of the message and the wishes of the drafter, the director of S/P may also distribute the dissent message to other senior officials in the Department, both for information purposes and for help in drafting a response. No additional distribution may be made without the authorization of the S/P director.
The Dissent Channel affords all State USG employees the ability to  “express dissenting or alternative views on substantive issues of policy, in a manner which ensures serious, high-level review and response”, it does not obligate the agency to change its policy.
The Director of Policy Planning is responsible for acknowledging receipt of a Dissent message within 2 working days  and for providing a substantive reply, normally within 30-60 working days. OBE now, is it?

 

 

AFSA Urges USG Move Quickly on Aghanistan, Members Offer to Help With Processing/Hosting New Arrivals

 

AFSA is the professional association and exclusive representative for the U.S. Foreign Service. Its membership includes retirees and almost 80 percent of the active Service. AFSA President Eric Rubin released the following statement on Afghanistan:

The fall of Kabul was a painful and wrenching day for all of us, especially for our Foreign Service colleagues, members of other U.S. government agencies, non-governmental organizations and members of the U.S. and allied militaries who served their country under difficult and at times perilous circumstances in the two-decade long war in Afghanistan. We lost treasured Foreign Service and Foreign Service National colleagues and remember with deep respect and appreciation the several thousand U.S. servicemembers who lost their lives and many more who came home grievously injured, physically and emotionally.

Now is the time to support our colleagues and the servicemembers who remain behind in Afghanistan or are in the process of returning to protect and assist with evacuation efforts. We hope and pray that many of the Afghan citizens who assisted us and the multilateral coalition in our efforts will be able to reach safe-haven and begin their lives anew. We recognize and deeply regret that some will almost certainly be left behind. We urge the U.S and allied governments to do everything possible to help those who wish to leave, and to insist on the safety of all those who remain.

We urge our government to continue to move quickly to bring as many Afghans to safety as is humanly possible, and to admit as many as possible to the United States as refugees or parolees. The administration has already waived medical exams for entry. Security vetting is obviously essential, but other clearances such as financial arrangements can wait. Many of our members, including retired members with years of experience rescuing refugees from earlier wars, have contacted us to offer help with processing and hosting new arrivals. We hope such offers will be accepted quickly.

In the meantime, our thoughts are with our fallen colleagues and servicemembers and with the long-suffering people of Afghanistan. They must not be forgotten.

This is a welcome statement. The anti-refugee voices are starting to fill the airwaves and social media with fear mongering. You can view some here, here, here, and here. The hashtag #refugeesNOTwelcome is also trending this morning.
No one wants to be forcibly displaced from one’s community and home country. Please help if you can.

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Snapshot: Number of Afghan SIVs Allocated by Fiscal Year and Authorizing Legislation

 

Related: