Avoidable Mess: U.S. to Help Chad After “Important Partner” Withdraws Troops From Niger Following Visa Sanctions

Posted: 3:33 am ET
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On September 24, President Trump announced new security measures that establish minimum requirements for international cooperation to support U.S. visa and immigration vetting and new visa restrictions for eight countries, including Chad. See Trump Announces New Visa Restrictions For Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, Somalia:.

Chad – Although it is an important partner, especially in the fight against terrorists, the government in Chad does not adequately share public-safety and terrorism-related information, and several terrorist groups are active within Chad or in the surrounding region, including elements of Boko Haram, ISIS-West Africa, and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb. Accordingly, the entry into the United States of nationals of Chad, as immigrants, and as nonimmigrants on business (B-1), tourist (B-2), and business/tourist (B-1/B-2) visas, is suspended.

Via BuzzFeed: Experts from the State Department to humanitarian organizations were stunned when the Chad was added to the travel ban in late September. The country is home to a US military facility and just hosted an annual 20-nation military exercise with the US military’s Africa Command to strengthen local forces to fight extremist insurgents. Chad’s capital, N’Djamena, is the headquarters of the five-country Multinational Joint Task Force battling Boko Haram.

What kind of visa numbers do we have for Chad? For temporary nonimmigrant visas the last five fiscal years, see below via travel.state.gov:

FY2016: 1,355 | FY2015: 1,352 | FY2014: 1,294 |  FY2013: 731 |  FY2012: 624

So given Chad’s counterterrorism cooperation, and the carved out already given to Iraq in the September 24 order, why was Chad included in the visa restrictions?  FP proposes this:

One possible explanation for this discrepancy, which would be preposterous in any administration except this one, is that the architects of the ban, having repeatedly heard the phrases “Boko Haram” and “Lake Chad” in the same sentence, assumed that Chad must be the epicenter of Boko Haram. (Lake Chad in fact lies on the border of Chad and three other countries, and Boko Haram is mostly confined to northern Nigeria, northern Cameroon, and southeastern Niger.)
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In the wake of the new travel ban announcement on Sept. 24, Chad has withdrawn hundreds of troops from neighboring Niger, where up to 2,000 of its soldiers were part of a coalition battling Boko Haram. The Chadian government has not yet offered an official explanation for the pullout, but Communications Minister Madeleine Alingué condemned Chad’s inclusion on the travel ban, saying that it “seriously undermines” the “good relations between the two countries, notably in the fight against terrorism.”
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The Chadian president is likely betting that with his forces withdrawn from Niger, the Trump administration will quickly come to appreciate his country’s security contributions and remove it from the list.

But it turns out — Chad had simply run out of passport paper!

AP’s Josh Lederman writes that Chad lacked the passport paper and offered to furnish the U.S. with a pre-existing sample of the same type of passport, but it was not enough to persuade DHS.  A congressional official told the AP that DHS working with the White House “pushed Chad onto the list without significant input from the State Department or the Defense Department.” 

Without significant input from agencies with people on the ground in Chad. If we were in Chad’s shoes, wouldn’t we do exactly the same? Obviously, being called an “important partner” does not make up for having your citizens banned from traveling to the other country. The action telegraphed careless disregard of the relationship, and Chad most likely, will not forget this easily. “Remember that time when the U.S. put Chad on the visa sanctions list while we have 2,000 soldiers fighting in Niger?” Yep, they’ll remember. We actually would like to know who among the local contacts showed up for the new embassy dedication, by the way (see @StateDept Dedicates New $225M U.S. Embassy in N’Djamena, Chad).

The DHS/WH architects of these visa bans/sanctions really are the best people with the best brains, hey?

Federal court has now issued a TRO for the latest travel restrictions that includes Chad. So basically, a carefully constructed bilateral relationship ends up in a mess, and it was all for nothing.

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@StateDept Dedicates New $225M U.S. Embassy in N’Djamena, Chad

Posted: 3:25 am ET
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On October 16, the State Department announced that “In an important symbol of our enduring partnership with the people of the Republic of Chad, U.S. Ambassador Geeta Pasi, Acting Director of the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations Ambassador William Moser, and Chadian Government officials dedicated the new U.S. Embassy in N’Djamena.”  We don’t know how many local officials attended as there appears to be no official photographs released of the embassy dedication (also see Trump Announces New Visa Restrictions For Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, Somalia).

According to State/OBO the new U.S. Embassy compound in Chad’s capital city of N’Djamena is situated on a 12-acre site in the Chagoua neighborhood, several kilometers southeast of downtown. The multi-building complex includes a chancery office building, a Marine Security Guard residence, support buildings and facilities for the Embassy community.

Via state.gov/OBO

The following details via the State Department’s Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (State/OBO):

      • The facilities meet all Department standards for security and life safety, and provide functional office space for Embassy staff.
      • The building’s scale, massing, and materials anchor the compound in this prominent, developing location within the city, and foster a sense of community and place.
      • The project was awarded in early 2014 and construction completed in spring 2017.
      • The site and building design provide shelter and relief from heat and sand storms, and seasonal rains.
      • A regionally-relevant color palette carried throughout the compound structures gives the Embassy a visual and cultural connection to the host nation.
      • An exterior space provides sufficient space to accommodate representational events.
      • The high performance interior offers an open-plan office, allowing delineation of work groups while providing continuous support for the workplace.
      • New and expanded civil infrastructure within and outside the complex includes new roads, sidewalks, lighting, landscaping, and storm water management.
      • A sculpted perimeter wall provides a secure perimeter and a well-lit public gathering space outside the complex, adjacent to the main entry.
      • An estimated 800 workers from the region—largely from Chad—are involved in the construction of the new Embassy

As with NEC Nouakchott, NEC N’Djamena is built for sustainability according to State/OBO:

  • The project is registered with the U.S. Green Building Council for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certification, and has met LEED® Gold certification.
  • The energy-efficient building design uses passive strategies, energy-efficient lighting, building controls, renewable energy systems, and HVAC systems projected to decrease energy use by 51%.
  • A pierced sunscreen shades the building, reducing heat gain, while water features collect and channel storm water in a way that celebrates the rainy season.
  • A multi-colored fiber-cement paneling system provides a cost-effective, thermally-efficient, and durable exterior.
  • Photovoltaic solar power arrays on-site are designed to offset 15% of the Chancery’s energy costs.
  • The compound is designed to minimize use of the local domestic water through efficient plumbing fixtures and equipment. All of the facility’s wastewater will be treated on-site and used to meet all of the site’s irrigation demand.
  • The facility is designed to provide a healthy indoor working environment through the use of low-emitting materials, air monitoring and comfort controls, as well as chemical and pollutant source controls.

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@StateDept Terminates US Embassy Chad’s Authorized Departure Status

Posted: 1:18 pm EDT
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The State Department issued an updated Travel Warning for Chad. The  warning dated November 10 informs U.S. citizens that the Department of State has terminated the Authorized Departure status for non-emergency personnel and dependents, who had previously departed Chad. These individuals may now return to the Embassy. The State Department nevertheless continues to warn U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Chad.

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“U.S. citizens already in Chad should continue to avoid all travel to border regions, particularly those areas adjacent to Chad’s eastern border and the Lake Chad region. The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide consular services is limited in remote and rural areas. All U.S. citizens should review their personal security and have evacuation plans that can be carried out quickly. Do not rely solely on U.S. government assistance. All U.S. citizens affiliated with humanitarian relief efforts in eastern Chad should have an evacuation plan developed with the United Nations agency coordinating their work.”

Read in full here.

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Post Closures, Travel Suspension, 9/11 Security Reminders

Posted: 2:07 am EDT
Updated: 11:11 am EDT
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Post closures:

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Non-essential travel suspension:
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9/11 Anniversary reminders:

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US Embassy N’Djamena: Travel Restrictions and Security Review in Chad

Posted: 2:17 am  EDT
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July 7 Security Message: Due to the bombings in N’Djamena on Monday, June 15, and Monday, June 29, U.S. Embassy staff is restricted from visiting public, open-air markets at any time, and may not attend or visit public events or venues not held at US government residences.

Photo by discovery.state.gov

US Embassy N’Djamena, Chad — image from discovery.state.gov

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US Embassy N’Djamena Imposes Travel Restrictions on Embassy Staff After Suicide Bombings in Chad

Posted: 2:40 am  EDT
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On June 15, the U.S. Embassy in Chad temporarily closed to the public due to reported explosions in the capital city.  All American citizens and their families were advised to shelter in place and not to travel around town.

 

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Late Monday, Embassy  N’Djamena released the following security message informing American citizens in the country of travel restrictions imposed on embassy personnel following the suicide attacks in the capital city:

Security Message for U.S. Citizens: U.S. Embassy Travel Restrictions and Security Review – June 15, 2015

Due to the bombings in N’Djamena on Monday, June 15, U.S. Embassy personnel are required to travel in armored vehicles and are restricted from traveling after dark to public places such as bars, restaurants, and markets. U.S. citizens are encouraged to review the Travel Warning for Chad, and to remain alert for potentially dangerous situations. U.S. citizens should avoid locations frequented by foreigners, including shops, restaurants, bars, and places of worship.

U.S. citizens are reminded to exercise caution throughout the country, and maintain vigilance in daily affairs, even when visiting familiar locations.

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US Embassy Chad Imposes Curfew, Limits Travel For All USG Personnel in N’Djamena

— Domani Spero
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Last week, the US Embassy in Chad issued a Security Message to Amcits in the country urging them to remain alert for potentially dangerous situations. It also announced that it imposed a curfew and limited the U.S. government personnel’s non-official evening and weekend activities within the capital of N’Djamena:

map from CIA World Factbook 2004, converted fr...

map from CIA World Factbook 2004, converted from original format (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The U.S. Embassy reminds U.S. citizens to review security recommendations outlined in the most recent U.S. Travel Warning for Chad, and to remain alert for potentially dangerous situations. The Embassy advises U.S. citizens to avoid locations frequented by expatriates, including markets, western-style shops, restaurants, bars, and places of worship. U.S. citizens should also avoid groups larger than six people and be particularly cautious at peak shopping times and at night. While there are presently no specific threats against U.S. citizens in Chad, there are violent extremist organizations in the region, such as Boko Haram, that are able to cross borders easily, and have vowed to target westerners and western interests. The U.S. Embassy in Chad reviews all proposed travel by official U.S. government personnel to Chad. Due to security concerns, there are currently limitations on U.S. government personnel’s non-official evening and weekend activities within the capital, N’Djamena. A curfew has been imposed for all U.S. government personnel’s personal activities from midnight to 5:00 a.m. on weekdays, and 1:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. on weekends. All U.S. government personnel require authorization to travel to areas outside of N’Djamena. We encourage all U.S. citizens to review security precautions and consider similar measures to mitigate exposure to violent crime and other threats. Please exercise caution throughout the country and maintain vigilance in daily affairs, even when visiting familiar locations.

 

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State/OIG Semi-Annual Report to Congress (Apri 1-September 30, 2013)

— Domani Spero

State/OIG submitted its last semi-annual report to Congress signed by Harold Geisel in September. Steve A. Linick took charge of the OIG on September 30, 2013.  The report was not published online until late December.

Via State/OIG

Via State/OIG

Under Oversight Review, State/OIG tells Congress it is conducting an in-depth review of Diplomatic Security’s investigative process.  This is in connection with last year’s allegations that several recent investigations were influenced, manipulated, or simply called off. (See CBS News: Possible State Dept Cover-Ups on Sex, Drugs, Hookers — Why the “Missing Firewall” Was a Big Deal):

The Office of Investigations (INV) is conducting an independent oversight review of certain investigations conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, Office of Investigations and Counterintelligence, Special Investigations Division (DS/ICI/SID). This is an in-depth review of the DS/ICI/SID investigations to assess the adequacy of the investigative process.

State/OIG also informs Congress that it audited seven posts under the purview of AF that had threat levels ranging from medium to critical. The audit was conducted “to determine to what extent the selected embassies in Africa complied with current physical security standards, and whether management officials at these posts used available authorities to effectively implement the posts’ security programs.” The audit identified physical security deficiencies at Embassy N’Djamena, Chad; Embassy Monrovia, Liberia; Embassy Nouakchott, Mauritania and Embassy Dakar, Senegal.  A brief summary of the audit is posted here but the reports are not publicly available.

The semi-annual report includes an item about the non-compliance of the local guard contractor for Embassy Lilongwe, Malawi, who was required to pay local guards $100 per month supplemental pay in addition to the guards’ regular wages and benefits, based on a provision in the contract. OIG estimated that the amount invoiced by the contractor and not paid to the local guards as of June 2013 could be as much as $1,489,200.

Other items of note:

  • OIG conducted an investigation after receiving allegations of improper activities being committed by a major contractor that provides survey services to the Department and other agencies. The investigation determined that the contractor provided false pricing information to the Department during negotiations for a 5-year, sole source contract worth $25,000,000. OIG led a multi-agency investigation which resulted in the contractor agreeing to pay a $10.5-million civil settlement for improperly inflating Department and U.S. Mint contract prices and engaging in prohibited employment negotiations with a Federal Emergency Management Agency official.
  • OIG conducted a joint investigation with the OIG for USAID into allegations that two foreign real estate companies paid bribes to two LE staff members at the local embassy in order secure U.S. Embassy lease agreements. During the investigation, the company presidents admitted to paying the bribes and both employees were terminated from employment at the embassy. On May 9, 2013, the Office of the Procurement Executive issued six contracting debarments for a period of 3 years in connection with the case, two for each former employee, two for the two firms, and two for the presidents of each firm.
  • OIG conducted an investigation of an assistant regional security officer who submitted a false reimbursement voucher in connection with an extended hotel stay. The investigation determined that the officer knowingly submitted two fraudulent vouchers for reimbursement to the Department and received $14,630.83 to which he was not entitled. On March 11, 2012, The Department of Justice declined criminal prosecution of the officer. On March 28, 2012, the Bureau of Resource Management initiated a collection action against the officer for the full amount of the false claims, and on April 23, 2013, the Bureau of Human Resources issued a 10 day suspension to the officer.

See more Semiannual Report to the Congress April 1, 2013 to September 30, 2013  [1990 Kb]  | Posted on December 30, 2013.

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Officially In: James Knight, from Iraq to Chad

On March 13, President Obama announced his intent to nominate Ambassador James Knight as the next Ambassador to the Republic of Chad. The WH released the following brief bio:

Ambassador James Knight, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, is Assistant Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.  From 2009 to 2012, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Benin.  His additional overseas assignments include: Team Leader of the Ninewa Provincial Reconstruction Team in Mosul, Iraq (2006-2007); Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Luanda, Angola (2004-2006); Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Praia, Cape Verde (2001-2003); Political Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Antananarivo, Madagascar (1995-1998); and Political, Economic, and Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Banjul, The Gambia (1993-1995).  In Washington, his assignments include: Director of the State Department’s Office of East African Affairs (2007-2009) and Country Officer for Ethiopia (1998-2001).  Ambassador Knight served in the U.S. Army from 1970 to 1973.

He received a B.A. and an M.A. from Wichita State University and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

Ambassador James Knight(Photo via US Embassy Cotonou/FB)

Ambassador James Knight
(Photo via US Embassy Cotonou/FB)

If confirmed, Ambassador Knight (appointed Assistant Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in the later part of 2012) would succeed career diplomat Mark Boulware who was confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Chad on September 29, 2010.

Ambassador Knight is an Africa hand with tours in various outposts in the African continent broken only by two postings in Baghdad and Mosul and a couple of domestic tours.  Nigerian scammers, by the way, did not know that he had left Benin last year and are still sending out their Irrevocable Release/Transfer Atm Visa Card Notice for your due funds (US$5,500,000:00) scam with Ambassador Knight’s name on it.
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