Foreign Service Retirements, and State Department Farewells and Departures

Posted: 1:50 am ET
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On November 15, Secretary Kerry congratulated Ambassador Rick Olson on his retirement after three decades of dedicated service to the United States. Prior to his retirement, Ambassador Olson served as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Secretary Kerry cited his service as U.S. Ambassador to both the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, Coordinating Director for Development and Economic Affairs at U.S. Embassy Kabul, and other positions in Mexico, Uganda, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Iraq, NATO, as well as a number of leadership positions here in Washington. On November 28, Secretary Kerry awarded Ambassador Olson the Distinguished Service Award during a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C. More photos here via Flickr. Secretary Kerry’s remarks on the Retirement of Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard G. Olson, 11/15/16.

 

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presents Ambassador Rick Olson, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP), with the Distinguished Service Award during a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on November 28, 2016. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presents Ambassador Rick Olson, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP), with the Distinguished Service Award during a ceremony at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on November 28, 2016. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]


On November 30, Ambassador Deborah Jones announced on Twitter that she is retiring from the Foreign Service after 34 years of service as a diplomat.  Ambassador Jones is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, having been with the Department of State since 1982. She served previously as U.S. Ambassador to Libya and as Ambassador to Kuwait. She also previously served as Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey.  Her previous overseas assignments include: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Baghdad, Iraq; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Damascus, Syria.  Her service in Washington, D.C. includes two years as Country Director of the Office of Arabian Peninsula and Iran Affairs in addition to assignments as Staff Assistant to Assistant Secretary for Near East and South Asia Affairs Richard Murphy, Acting Public Affairs Advisor to Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs, Desk Officer for Jordan, and duty in the Department’s Operations Center.  She speaks Arabic, Spanish and French.

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Tom Cochran was Deputy Coordinator for Platforms in the Bureau of International Information Programs, from March 2014 until this past November. In this role, he was responsible for providing places for public engagement that prioritize individuals, facilitate long-term relationships, and simplify public diplomacy to make it more measurable. Before his appointment at the Department of State, he was the Chief Technology Officer at Atlantic Media, publisher of international news outlets including: The Atlantic, Quartz, Government Executive and National Journal. Prior to joining the Atlantic Media, he was the Director of New Media Technologies for the White House where he led the team of people that created the “We the People” petition website. Mr. Cochran, a third culture kid who grew up in Japan and Thailand is a son of a foreign service officer.

Richard Stengel, the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs tweeted today as his last day as “R” at the State Department. Mountainrunner notes back in July that in January 2012, the office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy was ‘unencumbered’ 30% of the time (as in, a confirmed, not acting, Under Secretary was in place). By the time Rick Stengel was sworn in as the third Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy of the Obama Administration (the Bush Administration had four Under Secretaries), the vacancy rate was 33%. On July 1, 2016, Stengel became the longest serving Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy at 870 days, surpassing the previous record holder, Karen Hughes, who served 868 days. As of today, that’s 998 days on Stengel’s record.

The U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland Suzi LeVine announced her departure from post on FB for January 20.  “I wanted to let you know that my family and I will be leaving Switzerland on January 20, 2017 and heading back to our beloved Seattle. This opportunity to serve as President Obama’s personal representative here to these extraordinary countries of Switzerland and Liechtenstein has been rewarding, humbling, and truly awesome – beyond our wildest imaginations!”

U.S. Ambassador to South Africa Patrick Gaspard announced that he will depart Pretoria on December 16.  Prior to being appointed U.S. Ambassador to South Africa,he served as the Executive Director of the Democratic National Committee, a position he held since 2011. Previously, he served as an Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Political Affairs from 2009 to 2011. Prior to that, he was the National Political Director for Obama for America.

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Ambassador Richard Olson as New Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP)

Posted: 1:06 am EDT
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The State Department announced the appointment of Ambassador Richard Olson as the new Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP).

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Ambassador Richard Olson will succeed Dan Feldman, who concluded his tenure September 18, as U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (SRAP). Ambassador Olson will assume his responsibilities as SRAP on November 17, after concluding his service as the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan. As were his predecessors, Ambassador Olson will be responsible for developing and implementing policies and programs that support U.S. national security interests in promoting stability and increasing prosperity in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Ambassador Olson brings extraordinary experience in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as elsewhere, to his new position. He has served as U.S. Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for the last three years. Prior to his experience in Islamabad, Ambassador Olson served as the Coordinating Director for Development and Economic Affairs at U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan, from 2011 to 2012, during which time he oversaw all U.S. non-military assistance programs and support for the Afghan government. He also served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 2008 to 2011. He is a member of the Senior Foreign Service, and has served at the U.S. Department of State since 1982.

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Two Ambassadors Among Seven Killed in Gilgit Helicopter Crash in Pakistan

Posted: 11:01 pm EDT
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Members of the diplomatic corps in Pakistan scheduled to attend the inauguration of a tourism project in the northern part of the country  were killed on May 8th when a helicopter crashed landed in the Gilgit-Baltistan region. Local media reports say that the diplomatic party included members from 37 countries.

Pakistani Taliban has claimed that militants shot down the helicopter with an anti-aircraft missile.  The Pakistan government said the aircraft suffered engine failure.  The BBC reported that the area is not a a stronghold of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP).

Among the seven killed in the crash are Philippine Ambassador to Pakistan Domingo Lucenario Jr., Norwegian Ambassador Leif Larsen and the wife of the Malaysian ambassador, Datin Habibah Mahmud and the wife of the Indonesian ambassador, Heri Listyawati Burhan Muhammad. Two pilots and one crew member were also reportedly killed.  Those wounded include the ambassador to Pakistan from Poland, the Netherlands, and Indonesia.  Reports here via the Express Tribune Pk.  The diplomats involved in the crash returned to Islamabad on May 9th, click here for a video via Reuters.
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Ambassador David Hale: From US Embassy Beirut to US Embassy Islamabad

Posted: 01:16 am EDT
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Ambassador David Hale. Taken at the Green Park and Friendship Square, Jan 2014. Photo by US Embassy Beirut/FB

Here is a brief bio via US Embassy Beirut:

David Hale, a career Senior Foreign Service Officer, was confirmed as Ambassador to the Lebanese Republic on August 1, 2013.  Previously, he was the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, 2011-2013, a Deputy Envoy (2009-11), and U.S. Ambassador to Jordan (2005-8), after multiple tours in Jordan and Lebanon and service in Tunisia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and at the U.S. Mission to the UN.  In Washington, Hale was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israel, Egypt and the Levant and Director for Israel-Palestinian Affairs.  He held several staff posts, including Executive Assistant to Secretary of State Albright.  In 2013 Secretary Clinton gave him the Distinguished Service Award, and Hale has several Department Superior and Meritorious Honor awards.  He speaks Arabic, is a graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and a native of New Jersey.

If confirmed, Ambassador Hale would succeed career diplomat Richard Olson who was appointed ambassador to Pakistan in 2012. All chief of mission appointees to Islamabad since 1973 had been career diplomats.  We have to go all the way back to 1969 t0 find a political appointee to this post.

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USCG Karachi: Goodbye Michael Dodman, Hello Brian Heath

— Domani Spero
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USCG Karachi’s Consul General Michael Dodman recently concluded his 2-year tour in Pakistan.  Here is a memorable photo of Mr. Dodman showing his dance moves at the historic Kot Diji Fort in the Khairpur District of Pakistan’s southeastern province of Sindh.

Photo via USCG Karachi/Flickr

Photo via USCG Karachi/Flickr

Brian Heath assumed charge as the U.S. Consul General in Karachi on August 20, 2014. USCG Karachi released the following official bio:
 A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Mr. Heath most recently served as the Minister-Counselor for Management Affairs at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Since joining the Foreign Service in 1998, Mr. Heath’s overseas assignments have included Director of the U.S. Regional Embassy Office in Al Hillah, Iraq; Consul General at the U.S. Consulate in Lahore, Pakistan; Management Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Karachi, Pakistan; General Services and Human Resources officers at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, Germany; and Consular Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai (Bombay), India.
In the course of several assignments in Washington, DC, Mr. Heath has studied at the National War College; worked as a Senior Advisor in the Under Secretary of State for Management’s Office of Management Policy; and served as a Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Administration. Mr. Heath is the recipient of multiple Department of State Superior and Meritorious honor awards.
Mr. Heath graduated from Fordham University with a Bachelor’s degree in political economics, earned a law degree from Rutgers University, and received his Master’s degree in national security studies from the National War College. He is a member of the New Jersey and New York State bars.

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US Embassy Abu Dhabi: A+ for Commercial Promotion, “Below Average Scores on Every Leadership Category”

— Domani Spero
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State/OIG has just posted online its inspection report of the US Embassy in Abu Dhabi and CG Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The mission is headed by career diplomat, Ambassador Michael H. Corbin and DCM Victor Hurtado who both arrived in July 2011.

Below are some of the key judgments extracted from the publicly available report:

  • The Ambassador’s focus on business development as the mission’s primary goal has contributed to an increase in U.S. exports and created a favorable image in business circles for both the Ambassador and the embassy.
  • Front office support for the bilateral military relationship has strengthened that valuable tie. The Ambassador has been a key facilitator in gaining the release of U.S. military equipment for the United Arab Emirates, including through effective congressional testimony.
  • The Ambassador’s focus on commercial promotion has de-emphasized other important U.S. interests, such as law enforcement and illicit finance that agencies at the mission are working to advance. The Ambassador received below average scores on every leadership category in OIG questionnaires.
  • The United Arab Emirates’ strategic location and stable environment has led to an expansion of U.S. Government agencies at the embassy, without a corresponding increase in management support positions. The National Security Decision Directive 38 process is not accomplishing its purpose of subjecting proposed staff increases to careful review.
  • The embassy’s Defense Support Division contract merits comprehensive review. Issues include cost, standards of service, possible expansion, duration, and the contract’s heavy reliance on mission assistance.
  • Demand for consular services at both Embassy Abu Dhabi and Consulate General Dubai has mushroomed in recent years. Both are making progress transitioning from small-scale to medium-sized, high productivity operations. Frequent requests for special handling of routine visa cases from the front office and other parts of the mission impede this process.

The inspection took place in Washington, DC, September 3–23, 2013, and in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, between October 19 and November 7, 2013. Ambassador Marianne Myles (team leader), Michael Hurley (deputy team leader), Alison Barkley, Beatrice Camp, Roger Cohen, David Davison, Shawn O’Reilly, Keith Powell II, Richard Sypher, Joyce Wong, and Roman Zawada conducted the inspection.

Below are additional details that need a highlighter:

Staffing Quadrupled in Last 10 Years

Staffing for Mission UAE, which consists of Embassy Abu Dhabi and Consulate General Dubai, has quadrupled from 80 to 325 Americans in the last 10 years. More than 30 non-Department of State (Department) offices and agencies are present in country, and the mission houses 14 regional offices that cover the Middle East and other areas. The chancery is less than 10 years old but faces major space and infrastructure challenges. By 2017, the mission may also need to provide management support for 90 or more FMS personnel now supported by a private contractor that runs the Defense Support Division (DSD).

Mission UAE supported 1,605 temporary duty visitors and 63 VIP visitors in 2012, and the heavy visitor workload takes a toll on staff morale. All locally employed (LE) staff members are third country nationals, many from South Asia.

Mission Morale Is Poor

Morale and the housing program received the lowest scores on OIG questionnaires by a wide margin. Many complaints are caused by Abu Dhabi and Dubai being understaffed in management sections, lengthy initial stays in temporary quarters, and the location of the Al-Reef housing compound. Understaffing has a cascading effect on housing maintenance, personnel, and financial services, and subsequently on morale. Abu Dhabi and Dubai are not hardship differential posts but do receive a 25 percent cost of living allowance.

This is the second inspection conducted by State/OIG in less than 5 years. In the OIG inspection of 2010, the report noted a major challenge in  managing the unique and complex task of supporting one of the world’s largest foreign military sales accounts, amounting to some $15 billion. According to this latest OIG report, that contract is now valued at $34 million over 5 years. It appears that the challenge has not abated. Excerpt below:

Defense Support Division Contract 

Embassy Abu Dhabi and the Department determined that the existing ICASS support platform could not handle a large and rapid influx of FMS personnel and in 2011 created the DSD platform to augment embassy services. The DSD contract provides traditional ICASS administrative support services to approximately 90 FMS personnel; most of them arrived in 2012 and 2013. That number is expected to increase. The contract is for approximately $34 million over 5 years. The UAE Government pays for the contract. The embassy is responsible for overseeing it.
[…]
According to a March 2011 memorandum of understanding between the embassy and the Department of Defense, the Ambassador is responsible for ensuring that the quality, quantity, and cost of support provided by the contractor matches the support provided to embassy staff through ICASS. The Ambassador is also responsible for reviewing performance standards to assess the services provided by DSD. At the time of the inspection, no cost audit had been planned or performed.
[…]
Extensive interviews with staff indicate that embassy leadership and staff members do not fully understand the DSD support arrangement. The embassy has received no firm estimate of the numbers of future FMS personnel who will need support, where they will be located, and what support they will require. The Department has received personnel projections and estimates, but has not shared them with the embassy.

The air show has already made huge news with multiple announcements of civil aviation deals between the U.S. and #UAE topping $100 billion. These record contracts underline the partnership and the already strong bonds that exist between the U.S. and the UAE overall and in the commercial/private business sector. (Photo via US Embassy UAE/FB)

Dubai Air Show 2013 | The air show has already made huge news with multiple announcements of civil aviation deals between the U.S. and #UAE topping $100 billion. These record contracts underline the partnership and the already strong bonds that exist between the U.S. and the UAE overall and in the commercial/private business sector.
(Photo via US Embassy UAE/FB)

 

Visa Referrals Violations

The steady stream of inquiries from other parts of the mission for updates and special handling of otherwise routine visa cases hampers efforts in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai to provide efficient services for all consular clients and are in direct violation of Department regulations. The OIG team observed many examples of these inquiries via phone and email during the inspection. 

Pressure to handle routine nonimmigrant visa cases in a special or expedited fashion has the effect of slowing down the entire standard process in both locations, undermining cooperation and trust between the consular sections and other parts of the mission, and creating an appearance of impropriety. Responding to these inquiries, often from multiple sources relating to a single case, distracts consular chiefs from managing the day-to-day operations of the sections. These inquiries are being made in violation of 9 FAM Appendix K, which permits advocacy only through a formal referral process. Both consular sections should familiarize all staff with this policy.

 

Psst — A Special Mention on Gifts

Embassy Abu Dhabi has not designated a gifts officer or standard operating procedures for disposition of gifts, as required by Department regulations. Per 3 FAM 4122.1, the gifts officer is the embassy management officer. Because gifts are used and disposed of in accordance with Department regulations governing property management and disposal, management offices often delegate this role to the general services office. The absence of a clear standard operating procedure for gifts disposition places gift recipients at risk of ethics violations.

 

Goodbye to All That — MEPI, R&R Travel Benefit

The State/OIG report recommends that the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs (NEA) close the Middle East Partnership Initiative regional office in Abu Dhabi.  Apparently, in October 2012, the UAE government directed MEPI to end all grants within the country. With the suspension of grants in the UAE and increased restrictions elsewhere, the OIG team questions the justification for a regional MEPI office in Abu Dhabi. State/OIG notes that closure of the MEPI office would save approximately $1.5 million.

State/OIG also recommends that the Bureau of Administration eliminate the rest and recuperation travel benefit for personnel posted in Embassy Abu Dhabi and Consulate General Dubai. Elimination of R&Rs would save $260,000 on rest and recuperation travel cost.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai are non-differential posts, which normally would not qualify them for rest and recuperation travel. In May 2012, the Bureau of Administration’s Office of Allowances analyzed hardship differential questionnaires from embassies and consulate generals worldwide. It used a 12-point scoring system to determine rest and recuperation eligibility. One-hundred eighty-one missions were recertified as eligible. Another 23 missions not receiving a hardship differential, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, were examined further using the 12-point scoring system. This analysis determined that neither Abu Dhabi nor Dubai was qualified. Abu Dhabi met the rest and recuperation criteria for only 2 of the 12 factors (climate and unusual personal hazards), and Dubai for only 3 (climate, unusual personal hazards, and communicable diseases). The allowances office recommended to the Assistant Secretary for Administration that Abu Dhabi and Dubai cease the authorization of rest and recuperation travel. 

The Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs countered this decision with memoranda from Abu Dhabi and Dubai detailing social/cultural/gender isolation, geographic isolation, climate, health conditions, and similar issues. Inspectors noted that, with the exception of climate, the post report for the United Arab Emirates addresses none of these elements. The Bureau of Administration concurred with the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and retained rest and recuperation travel for Abu Dhabi and Dubai.   A review of the rest and recuperation destinations indicates that Dubai remains a “regional rest break” location for employees based in Kabul. There is no justification for continuing this benefit for employees assigned to Abu Dhabi or Dubai. In FY 2013, the mission spent $260,000 on rest and recuperation travel. 

 

Front Office Leadership and Management

The report says that its most significant recommendations concern needed leadership in establishing clear priorities for the whole mission and managing growth. But there are other stuff, too. Excerpt on front office leadership and management below:

DCM Gets a Nice Mention

The DCM is respected for his sound judgment, fairness, and ability to resolve issues. He has sought to clarify the Ambassador’s goals and objectives and help section chiefs and agency heads understand them. He is engaged and has hands-on knowledge of almost every issue and problem, with one person stating what many expressed in different ways: he is the “glue that holds the place together.” Senior staff members express appreciation for his open-door policy and the access it provides.   Nevertheless, the DCM needs to focus greater attention on LE staff support, mentoring of first- and second-tour employees, housing, mission expansion, office space, and the DSD contract.

Chief of Mission  — Thumbs Up

The Ambassador has accomplished much in support of the President’s National Export Initiative. He has made significant contributions to increased U.S. exports to the UAE as evidenced by his nomination for the 2013 Charles E. Cobb Award for Initiative and Success in Trade Development. He interfaces with Fortune 500 firms and has won particular praise for the assistance he has provided to smaller companies that are less certain of how to conduct business in the region. Heads of agencies with significant trade and business advocacy responsibilities characterize the Ambassador as the most engaged chief of mission with whom they have ever worked. The Ambassador has been a key player in promoting government-to-government economic dialogue and receives high marks from the local American Chamber of Commerce for including private-sector considerations at that forum. He attends dozens of trade shows and assemblies. He is generous in introducing newer U.S. companies to UAE officials.

Chief of Mission  — Thumbs Down

The Ambassador has not focused sufficiently on his staff and the internal workings of the embassy. In OIG-administered questionnaires, his staff rated him below average in every leadership category. Segments of the embassy community, including first- and second-tour employees and LE staff, feel under-supported. Staff members reported their belief that the Ambassador does not spend enough time in the embassy and is disengaged from the community. Both Department and non-Department staff members assert the Ambassador does not have a full grasp of the mandate of their office or agency. Several employees reported that the Ambassador has never visited their offices. These factors, as measured by OIG’s questionnaires and confirmed by OIG interviews at the embassy, contribute to poor morale. A systemic analysis of the underpinnings and potential impacts of these concerns is beyond the scope of this inspection. However, these results suggest the need for a more methodical review.
[…]
The Ambassador’s focus on business has left other elements of the mission somewhat adrift. Law enforcement, illicit finance, civil society, human rights, and other policy concerns receive relatively little attention. The law enforcement working group met only once in 2013, and no agenda or minutes are on file. There has been no formal illicit finance working group since the arrival of the Ambassador and the deputy chief of mission (DCM), despite the presence of more than five agencies with responsibility for sanctions, money laundering, and similar programs. The front office needs to pay greater attention to this cluster of issues.

Pesky Stuff — Leading by Example

Speeding Fines | “One result of the Ambassador’s frequent trips to Dubai and his crowded schedule is a large number of speeding fines on his vehicle. The mission has asked the host government to reduce or eliminate these fines in both Abu Dhabi’s and Dubai’s jurisdictions. This practice is contrary to Department and mission policy.”

Inappropriate Use of USG Resources |  “The Ambassador has requested that Consulate General Dubai pay personal expediting services with the consulate general’s government credit card for his convenience. Though he reimbursed all personal expediting services, he benefited from the corporate rate and inappropriately used government resources for personal purposes.”

In 2010, the OIG report on UAE said that then COM Richard Olson (now ambassador to Pakistan) and DCM Douglas C. Greene 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.”  Links to both reports are listed under related items.

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Related items:

-05/31/14   Inspection of Embassy Abu Dhabi and Consulate General Dubai, United Arab Emirates (ISP-I-14-11A)  [468 Kb]

OIG Report No. ISP-I-10-62A – Inspection of Embassy Abu Dhabi & CG Dubai, United Arab Emirates – June 2010 

 

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Congress Shuttered Our Zoo, So Here’s the Animal Kingdom Foreign Service Round-Up

— by Domani Spero

You’ve seen this photo of the “sad kid at the zoo,” right? The Atlantic Wire calls it the defining image of the government shutdown.  Okay. Australia’s Herald Sun screams, No zoo for you, kid. The US government shutdown hates children. Who writes things like that?  Also Matt Berman of the National Journal went looking for animals, or tried to (We Try to Find Animals at the Shut-Down National Zoo). He came away with the apparent message from the National Zoo which is this: “During a shutdown, we’ll feed the animals. But not the reporters.” He did not see any animals at the zoo except for a couple of male mammals guarding the gate and he found some fish and turtles at the nearby Petco.

Via Reddit/superbonnie

Via Reddit/superbonnie

As for us, we’re stuck as sad blogger online. The State Department is open for business but its social media arms have reportedly been directed to go limp until the shutdown is over. The embassies Twitter feeds are repeating variations of the same message “Due to the government shutdown, this Twitter feed will not be updated regularly.”  Frankly, some social media ninjas are having a hard time going dark – like @USEmbassyKabul, and @usembassyjkt because Secretary Kerry was in town and @usembassymanila, because of security threats and also Secretary Kerry was not in town.

Meanwhile, U.S. embassy officials are also restricted from giving speeches or conducting public outreach even if the agency is still funded.  Ambassadors are restricted from having welcome or farewell receptions, as well.  The welcome party for U.S.Ambassador Matthew Barzun to London is reportedly sponsored by  Tatler, a Conde Nast publication but was cancelled.  Even if no USG funds are expended, some tasks,chores or fun stuff  (including necessary work ones) are not getting done because they would look bad in the grim light of this government shutdown. But wait, on October 2 AmCham Belgium together with the American Club of Brussels did host a Gala Dinner to welcome the new US Ambassador to Belgium, Denise Bauer. What a difference a few days make!

Anyhow, since our national zoo is closed, we thought a collection of animals overseas might be a worthwhile blogpost during this extremely aggravating season. Note that these official engagements have all happened in the past.  Our ambassadors and diplomatic personnel shown below are not/not feeding any animals not doing engagements during the shutdown; apparently only excepted/limited/restricted/whatever activities.  So no rapid response.  You won’t like us for pointing this out — but … but…the Talibs are ‘um mocking us. Just think about it, okay?  Meanwhile, enjoy the cuties below.

U.S. Embassy Kenya

Ambassador Robert Godec  marked this year’s World Environment Day by adopting a one year old orphaned elephant named Tundani at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, Nairobi National Park. June 2013 | Via US Embassy Kenya/FB

Amb Godek_elephant2

U.S. Embassy Australia

Ambassador Jeffrey Bleich in a face-to-face croc encounter from the “Cage of Death” at Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin, Australia (photo via Amb Bleich/FB) | The encounter with the croc kind occurred in Darwin, in the Northern Territory of Australia during  a trip to welcome the arrival of  Lima Company 3rd Regiment, 3rd Marine battalion from Hawaii for training in country.

If  this shutdown last another week without a resolution, we should petition Congress to go on a CODEL to Darwin!

Amb B_NT

U.S. Embassy Canada

Ambassador David Jacobson carefully examines Batisse, the official mascot of the Royal 22e Regiment in Quebec. As part of a national farewell tour, the Ambassador of the United States took this opportunity to thank and address the troops of the 5th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group for their contribution in Afghanistan. | Photo by: Cpl Nicolas Tremblay, Valcartier Imaging Section. Via US Embassy/Flickr

US ambo to ottawa_with goat

U.S. Embassy Laos

Ambassador Karen Stewart with an elephant. We think this was taken at the conservation center in Laos but our reference, the  ambassador’s blog has been updated with a new blog by her successor, Ambassador Clune and the archive had been wiped mighty clean.

ANIMALS_Amb Stewart during elephant festival

U.S. Embassy France

Ambassadeur Charles Rivkin avec “Celebre” au Salon de l’Agriculture 2012.

ANIM_ Ambo Rivkin

U.S. Embassy United Arab Emirates

U.S. Ambassador Richard Olson during a visit to the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital (ADFH), the largest such facility in the world. (Photo from US Embassy Abu Dhabi) This was taken prior to his appointment as ambassador to Pakistan, can you tell?

ANIm_Ambo olson with falcon

U.S. Consulate General Toronto, Canada

Consul General Jim Dickmeyer greets Honest Ed (back) and Tecumseh along with their riders, Sgt. Jim Patterson and Staff Insp. Bill Wardle, respectively. The horses and the police officers – all members of the Toronto Police Service’s Mounted Unit took part in President Obama’s inauguration in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21st.

POD_inauguration horses

U.S. Embassy New Zealand

Ambassador David Huebner during an official visit to Palmerston North and Massey University’s Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences. A special highlightfor the Ambassador was his introduction to “Chelsea” a mature New Zealand Kiwi who was recovering in the Institute’s specialist care centre. August 2010 | Via US Embassy/Flickr

NZ_kiwi

The Emperor penguin colony representatives in Antarctica during their first diplomatic encounter with Ambassador David Huebner.| Photo by USAF/MarkDoll | December 1,2011 via US Embassy New Zealand

NZ_mike_ambo

U.S. Embassy Norway

Ambassador White visits Hedmark – Breeding Bulls and Battle Tanks (May 20, 2011)
Ambassador Barry White met with representatives from local breeding cooperatives Norsvin and Geno over a traditional Norwegian breakfast at Staur Gjestegård.  The companies conduct cutting edge research in sustainable breeding and artificial insemination and export pig and bull semen to over 20 countries, including the U.S. It’s estimated that over one million pigs and 100,000 cows in the U.S. now carry Norwegian genetic material. Below, Ambassador White stopped for a photo-op with Bosnes, a “quietly confident” 1000kg breeding bull.

Ambassador White visits Hedmark – Breeding Bulls and Battle Tanks (May 20, 2011

U.S. Embassy Thailand

Ambassador Kristie Kenney riding an elephant during Thai Elephant Week in early 2013

Photo via KK/Instagram

Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 8.46.10 PM

That’s kind of blurry, so we’ll give you another snapshot of Ambassador Kenney with a real cutie:

Ambassador Kenney with baby elephant

U.S. Embassy Egypt

Photo of U.S. Marine Security Guards and their camels at the pyramids, from MSG Detachment Cairo
via Diplomatic Security

Thanks to A Female Marine (second from left). This photo was taken in 2008 at the Great Pyramid of Giza on the morning of the Marine Ball .  “So the Marine in charge of MWR funds rented a herd of camels for us to sit on while the photographer snapped our pictures. Luckily the herd arrived with a handler for each camel otherwise we never would have been able to get lined up for the photo. The camels were not happy about this at all, they did not appreciate being forced to stand so close to each other and they were constantly squabbling like siblings in the backseat of a car.” Read more about it plus photos here.

Marines_security group in egypt

Perhaps, the most disappointment thing in this collection is the lack of pandas!  We could not locate a snapshot of Ambassador Huntsman or Ambassador Locke with the pandas.  What’s with that?  But we are sorta persistent, and finally we found an ambassador and a panda from 2004, Ambassador Huntsman’s predeceesor, Clark T. Randt, Jr.:

Screen Shot 2013-10-13 at 3.31.17 PM

The end.

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Officially In: Deborah K. Jones, from MEI Scholar-in-Residence to Libya

On March 13, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ambassador Deborah K. Jones as the next Ambassador to Libya. The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador Deborah K. Jones, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, is Scholar-in-Residence at the Middle East Institute in Washington, DC.  Previously, she was Senior Faculty Advisor for National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College.  From 2008 to 2011, she served as U.S. Ambassador to the State of Kuwait.  Ambassador Jones joined the Department of State in 1982.  Her additional overseas posts include: Principal Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey (2005-2007), Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (1998-2001), Consular Section Chief/Regional Counselor Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (1992-1994), and Consular Section Chief at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria (1990-1991).  Her Washington assignments include:  Director of the Office of Arabian Peninsula Affairs and Iran (2002-2004) and Acting Public Affairs Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs (1994-1995).

Ambassador Jones received a B.A. from Brigham Young University and an M.S. from the National War College of the National Defense University.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is greeted by Deborah K. Jones, U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait and Chief of the Kuwaiti Army Lt. Gen. Sheikh Ahmad Al-Khaled in Kuwait City on April 1, 2010. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist Chad J. McNeeley/Released)


Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is greeted by Deborah K. Jones, U.S. Ambassador to Kuwait in Kuwait City on April 1, 2010. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

If confirmed, Ambassador Jones would succeed the late Ambassador Stevens who served as chief of mission in Libya from June – September 2012.  Following the death of Ambassador Stevens, retired FSO Laurence Pope was sent to Tripoli in October 2012 as Chargé d’ Affaires.  Career FSO and former Director for the Office of Maghreb Affairs William Roebuck assumed office as Chargé d’ Affaires to Libya in January this year.

You may add this to your short list of tandem ambassador in the U.S. Foreign Service.  She is married to Ambassador Richard Olson, former US Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and US Ambassador to Pakistan since September 2012.  They have two daughters.

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Photo of the Day: President O with Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson

Via WH/Flickr

President Barack Obama meets with Rick Olson, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, in the Oval Office, Sept. 28, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Click on image above to view intro video by Ambassador Olson

SFRC Clears Villarosa, Liberi, Mull, North, Olson, Macmanus with Looming Senate Holds

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee(SFRC)  cleared the following ambassadorial nominations on September 19, 2012.

  • Sharon English Woods Villarosa, of Texas, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Mauritius, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Seychelles.
  • Dawn M. Liberi, of Florida, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Burundi.
  • Stephen D. Mull, of Virginia, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Poland.
  • Walter North, of Washington, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Papua New Guinea, and to serve concurrently and without additional compensation as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Solomon Islands and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Vanuatu.
  • Richard G. Olson, of New Mexico, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
  • Joseph E. Macmanus, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Representative of the United States of America to the Vienna Office of the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador.
  • Joseph E. Macmanus, of New York, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Representative of the United States of America to the International Atomic Energy Agency, with the rank of Ambassador

Two nominees for UNGA were also cleared:

The Honorable John Hardy Isakson, of Georgia, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-seventh Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy, of Vermont, to be a Representative of the United States of America to the Sixty-seventh Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

The nominations will now go to the Senate for the full vote.

The SFRC, by the way,  just held its confirmation hearing for Ambassador Robert Beecroft (US Embassy Iraq) on September 19, so he was not included in the cleared nominees on Wednesday.  The Cable says that according to committee aides, “there was broad support for dispatching the Beecroft nomination out of committee without a formal vote so he could be confirmed this week before the Senate leaves town.”

However, all these nominees could get entangled in Senator Rand Paul’s hold.  He has reportedly placed a hold on the Olson nomination over Pakistan’s Afridi case. And according to The Cable, there is also the the ongoing dispute between Senate leadership and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) over Paul’s demand for a floor vote on his amendment to cut off all U.S. aid to Pakistan, Libya, and Egypt.

We don’t think Dr. Afridi should be in jail, but taking away what, $33 million from over a billion US aid to Pakistan, and a very public congressional pressure to released the good doctor — is not going to help much. No country, particularly one like Pakistan would like to be seen as publicly relenting to such foreign pressure, especially one coming from the United States, a perceived enemy by a great number of its population. To do so is contrary to the laws of political self preservation.  Can you imagine any US President acceding to a foreign senator’s demand to release a prisoner from one of our jails?  Of course not.

Senator Paul says, “If Pakistan wants to be our ally — and receive foreign aid — then they should act like it, and they must start by releasing Dr. Afridi.” He has more here.

Even if the elected Government of Pakistan may be amendable to releasing Dr. Afridi, it would be foolish to do so now, in the most public way. Or if it does, and it falls, who would we have next to deal with?

If screaming from the Senate chamber works perfectly in conducting foreign relations, why the heck do we have a diplomatic corps?  More congressional shock and awe is not going to help the cause of Dr. Afridi, it just drags it longer.  Senator Paul should understand this.  It’s not about him, it’s about them.  He should lift his hold so Ambassador Olson can join his embassy in Islamabad and our diplomats can do the work they need to do.