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 knoxnews.com, 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, knoxnews.com 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.

 

 

 

 

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Zabul Attack: Can it possibly get any worse than this?

Via Jay Price and Rezwan Natiq, McClatchy Newspapers, Posted on Wednesday, 04.10.1

Ahmad Zia Abed, a reporter for Shamshad TV, said he and a videographer from his station were among about a dozen people, including the officer, Anne Smedinghoff, 25, whom American soldiers were escorting on the 200-yard walk from the local headquarters of the U.S.-led Provincial Reconstruction Team to what they thought was the school. A man at the gate said they had the wrong place, though, that this was the provincial agriculture institute.

The group retraced its steps to the American base to figure out what to do next, Abed said. The entrance to the base is just a few feet from the street, he said, and just as they reached it, walking more or less in single file, something slammed into his back and he staggered forward.
[…]
Abed’s account of the bombing, the most detailed to surface since the explosion, raises new questions about the circumstances that led to the deadliest combat incident in Afghanistan for Americans this year and contradicts what relatives of the victims have said they were told – that Smedinghoff and her military escorts had been in an armored vehicle when it was rammed by a suicide vehicle. Smedinghoff was the first American diplomat to die in Afghanistan during more than 11 years of warfare here.

The FBI has opened an investigation into the attack, said a U.S. government official who declined to be identified because of that investigation. He confirmed Wednesday night that the party had been on foot, and said earlier reports that they were in a vehicle convoy were inaccurate.
[…]
Smedinghoff’s father told journalists in the United States that he’d been told she was in a vehicle and the bomber either rammed it or detonated his explosives nearby. But Abed said she’d been his media escort all the way from Kabul to Qalat, the capital of Zabul province, and that he was certain she was on foot.

Read in full here.

— DS

US Mission Afghanistan: Public Diplomacy Officer for Kandahar, Kelly Hunt Wounded in Zabul

On April 8, knoxnews.com reported that two casualties from the April 6, 2012 attack in Zabul, Afghanistan came from East Tennessee. The news site sourcing family members confirmed the identities of  Army Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Ward of Oak Ridge who was killed during the attack  and Kelly Hunt, a 33-year-old public diplomacy officer assigned in Kandahar for the State Department, who was wounded in the same incident. (see photos via knoxnews.com)

On April 9, knoxnews.com noting that details of the attack are still vague, reported  that Ms. Hunt who worked previously as a News Sentinel staffer headed into “surgery again” citing information from family members. She reportedly is in a medically induced coma at a military hospital in Germany.  This is probably the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

According to her LinkedIn Account, Ms. Hunt joined the State Department last year and has been the public diplomacy officer in Kandahar since July 2012.

“As a public diplomacy officer for the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, I serve as the RC-South Ambassador’s PD officer and the civilian PD liason for military command. Help design key leader engagements for the Senior Civilian Representative – the Ambassador for RC-S; report daily to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul during crisis communication events; write talking points, speeches and readouts for KLE interactions, roundtables with Afghan journalists and interviews with international media; highlight and plan media events to disseminate Afghan news to the international community; serve as the military’s counterpart for a variety of topics; and act as a PD grants officer representative for various RC-S PD grants, proposing grants that will have an enduring and stabilizing impact on the region for years to come while ensuring the grantees stay on budget and on task.”

News reports so far indicate that four other State Department staffers, including Ms. Hunt, were injured in the bombing, one critically.

We should note that Ms. Smedinghoff who was killed in the same attack was a public diplomacy officer working as the Assistant Press Attache at U.S. Embassy Kabul since last year. It appears right now that there were five State Department personnel delivering textbooks to a school in Qalat?

We have more questions than answers right now.  If anyone care to help answer some of those questions, please contact me here.

DOD has also released today the names of the troops who perished in Zabul for “wounds suffered when enemy forces attacked their unit in Zabul, Afghanistan with a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device.”  The DOD release says that  they were assigned to the 5th Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Armor Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Georgia. Those killed were:  Staff Sgt. Christopher M. Ward, 24, of Oak Ridge, Tenn., Spc. Wilbel A. Robles-Santa, 25, of Juncos, Puerto Rico, and Spc. Deflin M. Santos Jr., 24, of San Jose, Calif.

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Updated:  Rewritten to provide only links to restricted knoxnews material.

 

Related items:

 

 

 

RIP Anne Smedinghoff: Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die.

I don’t know why I was bothered when Secretary Kerry refrained Saturday from naming Ms. Smedinghoff in his statement on her passing (if it did not bother you, that’s okay).  Perhaps I should blame it on OC, perhaps not. But one only die once … I was looking for an appropriate acknowledgement of the sacrificed made in Zabul on Saturday.

The attack occurred on Saturday, April 6 at around 11:00 in the morning in Afghanistan. That’s about 2:30 am in Washington, D.C.  About ten hours after the attack, around noon in WashDC, the State Department released a statement from Secretary Kerry without naming the diplomat killed in Zabul Province of Afghanistan.

How do you properly acknowledge in public the sacrifice of somebody when she is but a third person singular pronoun?

She was everything a Foreign Service officer should be: smart, capable, eager to serve, and deeply committed to our country and the difference she was making for the Afghan people. She tragically gave her young life working to give young Afghans the opportunity to have a better future.

An older version of the WaPo report, no longer online says that the State Department did not identify the deceased to give the family time to notify other family members.  But if that were so, why did State release a statement in a rush instead of waiting until the following day? Was the need to put out a statement ten hours after her death so urgent that it was deemed acceptable to reduced her to a pronoun?

State could have waited until Sunday to released a complete official statement, but it did not. The last time a civilian employee was killed in Afghanistan was on August 8, 2012.  On August 9, then Secretary Clinton released a statement on USAID Foreign Service Officer Ragaei Abdelfattah.  When four Americans died in Benghazi, the official statement which identified Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith came a day after the attack, but two casualties were not identified until much later.

Ms. Smedinghoff’s parents released a statement about their daughter late Saturday.

Secretary Kerry was in Istanbul on Sunday when he publicly identified Ms. Smedinghoff for the first time:

“And I think there are no words for anybody to describe the extraordinary harsh contradiction of a young 25-year-old woman with all of the future ahead of her, believing in the possibilities of diplomacy, of changing people’s lives, of making a difference, having an impact, who was taking knowledge in books to deliver them to a school. And someone somehow persuaded that taking her – his life was a wiser course and somehow constructive, drives into their vehicle and we lose five lives – two Foreign Service, three military, large number wounded, one Foreign Service officer still in critical condition in the Kandahar hospital because they’re trying to provide people with a future and with opportunity.”
[…]
It is a confrontation with modernity, with possibilities, and everything that our country stands for, everything we stand for, is embodied in what Anne Smedinghoff stood for, a 25-year-old young woman, second tour of duty, been a vice consul in Caracas, Venezuela and then off to an exciting, challenging, unbelievable undertaking in one of the toughest places on earth.

I’ll come back to that in a separate post later.

Ms. Smedinghoff was on Twitter, on LinkedIn, also on Facebook. I was tempted to use her photo for this post, but it doesn’t seem right to use the photographs  from her social media accounts now that she’s dead and couldn’t object. Perhaps she wouldn’t have minded .. but what if she did mind … the dead cannot speak up … so I walked away from the photos.

Do you remember when you were 25?  When you were young and brave and full of wonder and hope about conquering the world of possibilities?

Death is never far away in the small Foreign Service community (see In the Foreign Service:  Death, Too Close An Acquaintance). Even if you and I do not personally know Anne Smedinghoff, as Cormac McCarthy writes, “The closest bonds we will ever know are bonds of grief. The deepest community one of sorrow.”

Since the beginning of 2013, excluding this latest attack, 24 Americans have died in Afghanistan, the highest total among coalition forces. The average age of those killed is 28.  Since 2001, there had been 3,279 deaths in Afghanistan. Of that 2,198 were  Americans.  On the same day that Ms. Smedinghoff was killed, a DOD civilian employee also was killed. And, in a remote corner of eastern Afghanistan, a battle and airstrike left nearly 20 people dead, including 11 Afghan children and a U.S. advisor.

Herbert Hoover said that “Older men declare war. But it is youth that must fight and die.”  Sometimes you’re not even fighting, but still you die. And old men give speeches and get lost on the road to ending wars.

Then you read something like this: Leaving Corruptistan: Washington Favors Exit over Fight with Karzai. And you want to throw all your shoes at the somebodies. Is that infantile reaction? Well, probably yes, but you’ll do it anyway because not doing anything, anything at all, no matter how pointless just seem worse. And no, you’re not throwing your shoes because we’re leaving the sinkhole kingdom, er, republic …

 

* * *

 

Below are some blog posts collected from around the Foreign Service on the passing of Ms. Smedinghoff.

 

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Taliban Attack Kills US Diplomat, Three NATO Troops and Civilians in Zabul, Afghanistan

According to McClatchy, three NATO troops and two coalition civilians were killed Saturday in southern Afghanistan in a suicide bombing that also killed two Afghans and narrowly missed killing the governor of the province.  The attack reportedly came at about 11 a.m. in the Zabul provincial capital, Qalat, as a convoy carrying Gov. Mohammad Ashraf Nasery was passing the base of the local NATO provincial reconstruction team.

Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul vehicle crews maintain security while PRT engineers conduct a site survey of the on-going street drainage project in Qalat, Afghanistan, April 14. The PRT is comprised of Air Force, Army, Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S. Department of Agriculture personnel who work with the government of Afghanistan to improve governance, stability and development throughout the province. (Photo via ISAF/Flickr)

Provincial Reconstruction Team Zabul vehicle crews maintain security while PRT engineers conduct a site survey of the on-going street drainage project in Qalat, Afghanistan, April 14. The PRT is comprised of Air Force, Army, Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S. Department of Agriculture personnel who work with the government of Afghanistan to improve governance, stability and development throughout the province. (Photo via ISAF/Flickr)

Both ISAF and the State Department cites the attack as an improvised explosive device (IED) attack. Some reports described it as a suicide attack.

The casualties are typically not named pending notification of their next of kin. We don’t know why the deceased diplomat is not named in this statement when Secretary Kerry had already spoken to her parents.

Our State Department family is grieving over the loss of one of our own, an exceptional young Foreign Service officer, killed today in an IED attack in Zabul province, along with service members, a Department of Defense civilian, and Afghan civilians. Four other State Department colleagues suffered injuries, one critically.

Our American officials and their Afghan colleagues were on their way to donate books to students in a school in Qalat, the province’s capital, when they were struck by this despicable attack.

Just last week in Kabul, I met our fallen officer when she was selected to support me during my visit to Afghanistan. She was everything a Foreign Service officer should be: smart, capable, eager to serve, and deeply committed to our country and the difference she was making for the Afghan people. She tragically gave her young life working to give young Afghans the opportunity to have a better future.

We also honor the U.S. troops and Department of Defense civilian who lost their lives, and the Afghan civilians who were killed today as they worked to improve the nation they love.

I spoke this morning with our fallen Foreign Service officer’s mother and father and offered what little comfort I can for their immeasurable loss. As a father of two daughters, I can’t imagine what her family is feeling today, or her friends and colleagues.

I also have been in close touch with Secretary Hagel, the White House, and our senior management team at the State Department, including Deputy Secretary Burns, Undersecretary Kennedy, and Ambassador Cunningham in Kabul. We will all keep in close contact as we learn more facts about this attack and the brave people who were killed and wounded. We are also in contact with the families of those injured.

We know too well the risks in the world today for all of our State Department personnel at home and around the world – Foreign Service, civil service, political appointees, locally employed staff, and so many others. I wish everyone in our country could see first-hand the devotion, loyalty, and amazingly hard and hazardous work our diplomats do on the front lines in the world’s most dangerous places. Every day, we honor their courage and are grateful for their sacrifices, and today we do so with great sadness.

With thoughts and prayers to loved ones left behind and the wounded.  We will update this post when additional information becomes available.

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Father of Injured Benghazi Security Officer David Ubben Speaks Up

On September 21, the WSJ reported that during the Benghazi Attack, diplomatic security agent David Ubben was inside the main building with Ambassador Stevens and Sean Smith, the information-management officer, when the attackers set it on fire around 15 minutes after the shooting started.

The three took refuge in a safe room, but found themselves overcome by smoke and agreed they would make a break for it through a window, according to a State Department official familiar with Mr. Ubben’s role.

Mr. Ubben, a 30-year-old Iraq war veteran, managed to escape, but lost contact with Messrs. Stevens and Smith in the dense smoke, the official said.
[…]
Mr. Ubben and the other security agents made several trips into the building to try to find the diplomats but could spend only brief periods inside, and suffered varying degrees of lung damage, said the official familiar with Mr. Ubben’s role.

DS Agent David Ubben is reportedly recuperating at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD.  Meanwhile, his father Rex Ubben, told Reuters on Wednesday that the US State Department should own up to what he said were its mistakes and release more information about what occurred.

David Ubben, a 31-year-old State Department employee, suffered broken bones and other injuries in the Sept. 11 attack that killed the US ambassador to Libya and three other Americans.

As David Ubben recuperates at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington, his father, Rex Ubben, said he did not blame the State Department or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for his son’s injuries. But “I do find it troubling that they have not owned up to their shortcomings; in government, in the military, and in business, if something goes wrong, you admit it, correct it, and move on,” Rex Ubben said.
[…]
Ubben also questioned why it took so long for his son to reach a hospital after the attack, saying of his son’s condition, “by my count, there were five or six broken bones (one completely smashed, thus the operations) and shrapnel damage head to toe. I was surprised at how many parts of him were injured.”
David Ubben is having a series of surgeries and his father expects him to be hospitalized for several months.
[…]
Rex Ubben, 60, said he was a 24-year Air Force veteran who retired in 1995 as master sergeant. He was based at various U.S. embassies. Since retiring, he has been a computer programmer for several banks.

Continue reading, Father of US bodyguard injured in Libya attack pushes State Department

 

 

 

 

 

US Embassy Libya: Protesters storm the US Office in Benghazi, kill one American officer, wound others

Al Jazeera, citing Libyan security forces is reporting that an American staff member of the US consulate in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi has died following fierce clashes at the compound.

An armed mob attacked and set fire to the building in a protest against an amateur film deemed offensive to Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, after similar protests in Egypt’s capital.

“One American staff member has died and a number have been injured in the clashes,” Abdel-Monem Al-Hurr, spokesman for Libya’s Supreme Security Committee, said on Wednesday, adding that rocket-propelled grenades were fired at the building from a nearby farm.

The AP reports that  Libyan security forces outnumbered by the crowd did little to stop the protesters.  The mob overwhelmed the facility and set fire to it, burning most of it and looting the contents, witnesses said.

One American was shot to death and a second was wounded in the hand, al-Sharef said. He did not give further details.

The violence at the consulate lasted for about three hours, but the situation has now quieted down, said another witness.

Secretary Clinton released the following statement confirming the death of one officer and condemning the attack:

I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. As we work to secure our personnel and facilities, we have confirmed that one of our State Department officers was killed. We are heartbroken by this terrible loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and those who have suffered in this attack.

This evening, I called Libyan President Magariaf to coordinate additional support to protect Americans in Libya. President Magariaf expressed his condemnation and condolences and pledged his government’s full cooperation.

Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.

In light of the events of today, the United States government is working with partner countries around the world to protect our personnel, our missions, and American citizens worldwide.

Benghazi is  the second largest city in Libya and the former provisional capital of the National Transitional Council during and immediately after the 2011 Libyan civil war. On June 6, 2012 there was an IED attack on the U.S. Office in Benghazi during the early morning hours. There were no casualties.  A few days later, there was another attack, this time on a UK diplomatic convoy in Benghazi on June 11. Two individuals sustained injuries. Last month, in the early morning of August 6, U.S. Embassy personnel were attacked by armed assailants in a possible carjacking in Tripoli. The personnel evaded the attack and arrived safely at their destination.  But on September 11, they finally got one of ours.

Our State Department source said that the officer killed was a TDYer out for a short stint in Benghazi.  We’re also hearing that top embassy officials were supposed to open the new American Corner in Benghazi on September 11. So it is possible that there were more people at the US Office in Benghazi than the normal number of staff when the attack happened. We will update blog post if we learn more.

USCG Peshawar: Robert Reed Assumes Charge as Consul General

The new Consul General for the USCG Peshawar arrived last month and has assumed charge.  This is one officer who did not just do one week of crash and bang at some Virginia farm.

Robert Reed joined the U.S. Department of State in 1985. His first assignment was in the Diplomatic Security Boston Field Office. He was then transferred to Secretary George Shultz’s protective Detail in 1987, where he served as a Supervisory Agent.

In 1989 he was assigned as an Assistant Regional Security Officer at American Embassy Bonn, Germany followed by a tour in Bamako, Mali, where he served as Regional Security Officer (RSO).  In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, he served for three years as RSO followed by an additional year as the Haitian Presidential Security Advisor to then President Rene Preval.  After Haiti, Mr. Reed was assigned to Kingston, Jamaica as RSO.

From 2002 to 2006, Mr. Reed was the RSO in London, UK.  In 2006 Mr. Reed served in Iraq, as Provincial Reconstruction Team Leader for Karbala and Wasit Provinces.  Following a tour as RSO Moscow from 2007 to 2009, he returned to Iraq as the Senior Regional Security Officer, overseeing the U.S. State Department’s largest security program.  Prior to his current assignment as the Consul General in Peshawar, Mr. Reed served as the Senior Olympic Security Coordinator, managing the protection of Team USA for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Team USA came out of London without a security hitch. And he gets a promotion to one of the most dangerous assignments in the Foreign Service. But given what happened to USCG Peshawar yesterday, we are pleased that an experienced officer like Mr. Reed is at the helm of this post that has been under siege for the last several years.

Click on photo to view video greeting.

The 2012 Crime and Safety Report has this to say about Peshawar, Pakistan:

The U.S. Department of State rates Peshawar and surrounding areas as “high” for crime, but  the overall security environment in Peshawar is inextricably linked to the “critical” terrorist threat that touches all aspects of life for expatriates and locals alike in Northwest Pakistan.  Local authorities do not keep reliable crime statistics, and tracking incremental changes in the crime and safety situation is difficult.  However, following the Abbottabad raid in May 2011 and the November 2011 Mohmand cross-border incident, anti-American sentiment and continued extremist activity continue to render Peshawar one of the world’s most challenging security environments for westerners.   The overall number of terrorist acts in the “settled areas” of Peshawar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province has fallen compared to prior year figures, but attacks continue  to occur, particularly against commercial targets and local government facilities.
[…]
In 2010, the U.S. Consulate weathered a direct assult.  In May 2011, a Consulate motorcade was attacked via Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED) in the “University Town” neighborhood in Peshawar where the city’s relatively few western-affiliated offices and residences are located.

The September 3, 2012 car bomb attack on USCG Peshawar’s vehicle is just the latest in the persistent targeted attacks of the US presence in Peshawar. We were looking at the YouTube footage below of the mangled vehicle left from the bombing and we are still awestricken that the passengers got away with non-life threatening injuries.  See USCG Peshawar: Suicide Car Bomb Targets Consulate Car, Wounds Four Staff and More (Updated)

Via Al Jazeera:

The 2010 OIG inspection report called Peshawar the most dangerous Foreign Service post in the world, and the 2012 CFR did not dispute that characterization.  According to the May 2012 CFR, Peshawar is also seriously disadvantaged by the fact that it is viewed through the prism of Islamabad, rather than in its real context as “Afghanistan’s near abroad.”

“This optic understates the realities of both living and security conditions, which are more in line with those in Baghdad and Kabul. It also means that that compensation and benefits afforded to those in Peshawar are not in line with those living in comparable conditions in nearby Afghanistan.”

We wrote this piece last week before the latest attack occurred.  We have since learned that the two Americans and two Pakistanis wounded in the vehicle attack are all part of the Diplomatic Security (Regional Security Office) at USCG Peshawar.

Our thoughts are with them, and we hope for their speedy recovery.

Domani Spero

USCG Peshawar: Suicide Car Bomb Targets Consulate Car, Wounds Four Staff and More (Updated)

The AP is reporting that a suicide car bomb hit an armored SUV of the US Consulate General in Peshawar.  The attack reportedly killed two Pakistanis and wounded 19 other people, including two American personnel and two local staff of the consulate, as well as policemen who were protecting the Americans.

Updated @6:49 pm PST: Our source from the US Embassy in Islamabad says that the four were in the vehicle and were saved by accompanying local police who pulled them out after the attack – two Americans and two Pakistanis were slightly wounded.  One American is in a hospital in Islamabad but injuries are not life-threatening.  All four are part of the Diplomatic Security (Regional Security Office) at the Consulate General in Peshawar.

Excerpt via ctvnews.ca:

The armored SUV from the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar was attacked as it traveled through a heavily guarded area of the city that hosts various international organizations, including the United Nations. It was unclear how the bomber penetrated the area and knew which vehicle to attack.

The car driven by the bomber was packed with 110 kilograms (240 pounds) of explosives, police said. The blast ripped apart the SUV – tossing its engine at least 6 meters (20 feet) away – and started a raging fire. Rescue workers and residents rushed to put out the fire and pull away the dead and wounded. All that was left of the SUV was a charred mass of twisted metal with a red diplomatic license plate.

Local news says that the  US consulate vehicle was at Abdara Road in University Town when targeted by the car bomb. The explosion reportedly left a crater in the road and destroyed a Jeep, damaging two others and demolishing the facing walls of four nearby houses.

Department of State Spokesperson Toria Nuland confims that four consulate staff were wounded in the attack:

“We can confirm that a vehicle belonging to the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar was hit in an apparent terrorist attack. Two U.S. personnel and two Pakistani staff of the Consulate were injured and are receiving medical treatment. No U.S. Consulate personnel were killed, but we are seeking further information about other victims of this heinous act.”

U.S. Embassy Islamabad also released the following statement by Charge d’affaires Ambassador Richard Hoagland:

“I am grateful for the humane professionalism of the local Pakistani security forces who saved the lives of the two American Diplomats and two Pakistani local staff of the U.S. Consulate General Peshawar by pulling them to safety after their vehicle was attacked. In this dangerous world where terrorists can strike at any moment, we must all work together – Pakistanis and Americans alike – because we have a strong mutual interest in defeating terrorism.”

Peshawar, Afghanistan’s Near Abroad and a Recommendation of Possible Closure

In May 2012, State/OIG released its Compliance Follow-up Review of the US Mission in Pakistan. In that CFR, the inspectors points out that Peshawar remains the most dangerous post in the Foreign Service and that it should be viewed not just as a dangerous consulate general in Pakistan but what it termed as “Afghanistan’s near abroad,” that is, a location similar to one of the provinces of Afghanistan without the NATO coalition forces.

By all calculations, Peshawar is the most dangerous post in the Foreign Service. The OIG team believes strongly that Peshawar should be viewed as “Afghanistan’s near abroad” rather than a dangerous consulate general in Pakistan. The conditions are analogous to those faced in one of the provinces of Afghanistan, without the benefit of North Atlantic Treaty Organization security. The consulate general is located in the former consul general’s residence on a Pakistani military cantonment. Security is so dire that employees are frequently required to sleep in their offices on the very confined consulate compound rather than travel to their residences in town. Despite this situation, the employees have an unflagging commitment to the mission and good morale bolstered by a sense of teamwork. Given the U.S. Government’s commitment to our continued presence in Peshawar, it is critical that more be done to assist these beleaguered personnel. They are under constant threat of terrorist attacks and harassed by local government agents, it is difficult to impossible for them to travel in the region and their present existence is analogous to a state of siege.

It appears that the OIG team also made a recommendation about the possible closure of the Consulate General in Peshawar but since it is in the security annex, presumably in the classified portion of the report, we don’t know the actual wording of the recommendation except for the following contained in the publicly released report:

Of the 27 informal recommendations in the security annex, all but 1 was closed by the CFR. Informal Recommendation 19 regarding the ability of Consulate General Peshawar to develop a way to drawdown in the event of a catastrophic incident needs to be reevaluated. It was not reissued as a formal recommendation; however, a new recommendation regarding the possible closure of Consulate General Peshawar was added.

We have a separate post drafted on the newly arrived CG in Peshawar from last week that we have not been able to post due to duties beyond this blog.  We hope to have that up in a bit.

Domani Spero