Ending weeks of rumors and speculation, on July 17, President Obama finally announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Richard G. Olson as the next Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The WH released the following brief bio:
Ambassador Richard G. Olson, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, served as the Coordinating Director for Development and Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul from June 2011 to June 2012. He previously served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 2008 to 2011 and as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Brussels from 2006 to 2008. Additional overseas assignments include posts in Mexico, Uganda, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Najaf, Iraq. Additional Washington assignments with the State Department include posts in the State Department Operations Center, NATO Desk, the Office of Israel and Palestinian Affairs, and the Office of Iraqi Affairs.
Ambassador Olson joined the Department of State in 1982. He received an A.B. from Brown University.
If confirmed, Ambassador Olson would succeed career diplomat Cameron Munter who not only presided the US Mission in Pakistan during one of the most turbulent phase of US-Pakistan relation but also became a casualty in the policy debate over covert actions in Pakistan. Press reports say that Ambassador Munter will depart Islamabad shortly and will retire from the Foreign Service.
The good news for US Mission Pakistan —
- Ambassador Olson is the father of two daughters but there is no mention of a wife in his biography; which probably means, there will be no question on, as the OIG report puts it, “whether she (Ambassador Munter’s wife) is overly tasking and taxing parts of the mission.”
- Prior to his assignment to Pakistan, Ambassador Olson was the chief of mission at our embassy at the United Arab Emirates. Apparently, those wealthy and cosmopolitan Emiratis tend to be unimpressed by the U.S. Government-sponsored exchange and other cultural programs, so his new host country where roughly three-in-four Pakistanis (74%) consider the U.S. an enemy, up from 69% last year and 64% three years ago will be a lot tougher but will not be so totally foreign. Of course, they don’t just ignore us in Pakistan, they actually hate us. And he would have to deal with the Pakistani relatives of Michele Bachmann in the conspiracy theory department like this university vice chancellor who sees nothing good coming out of five huge cranes!
- US Mission Pakistan is undergoing an expansion; during part of his tenure at US Embassy Abu Dhabi staffing there had increased by 54%. The Pakistan mission will be much bigger but he will not be overseeing a large expansion for the first time.
- After heavy VIP visitor traffic to and though the U.A.E. and US Mission Afghanistan, the VIP traffic to US Mission Pakistan should not be a shocker to the new mission chief.
- While the OIG reports about official harassment in Pakistan (blog pal says harassment hasn’t been bad at all), Ambassador Olson’s embassy in Abu Dhabi had to deal with Emirate harassment on classified and unclassified diplomatic pouches, including airport confrontations.
- According to the OIG report, Ambassador Olson and his DCM both scored a perfect five (on a scale of one to five) on the OIG “leadership qualities” confidential survey among non-Department agency heads before the inspection. Even the Department officers ranked the Ambassador and DCM favorably (averaging a score of four on the same scale). The report also says that “Section chiefs and experienced agency heads unanimously called this the finest embassy country team experience they have had, and voted full confidence in the leadership.” Perhaps this should bode well for the inter-agency cooperation at US Mission Pakistan?
- Ambassador Olson also did a “a good deal of public diplomacy work and is seen as an effective and visible advocate by the U.S. business community.”
Finally, and our blog readers might like this — Ambassador Olson is, or was, a blogger. In fact, the IG report says that the ambassador’s classified blog is required reading among the Persian Gulf ’s policymakers, because “it is engaged, energetic, and current.”
Maybe we should pin a note like ? – Dear Ambassador Olson, when are you coming to WordPress?
- Talk Getting Louder – Ambassador Richard G. Olson Heading to Pakistan
- US Mission Pakistan: Ambassador Munter’s Summer Departure and Is This Our Next Man in Islamabad?
- Round-Up: Headgears in the Foreign Service
- Profile: Richard G. Olson – US ambassador to Pakistan (dawn.com)
- Obama names new Afghan, Pakistan envoys (dawn.com)
- Obama Picks Diplomats for Afghanistan and Pakistan (nytimes.com)
- Obama taps Afghanistan ambassador (politico.com)
- Obama names new Afghan and Pakistan envoys (rawstory.com)