Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Coming Soon - Civilian Surge for Afghanistan?

Karen DeYoung reports today on Hundreds of New Civilian Employees Proposed for Afghanistan (WaPo, Wednesday, March 18, 2009; 3:43 PM):

"Hundreds of additional U.S. diplomats and civilian officials would be deployed to Afghanistan as part of the new civil-military regional strategy that President Obama's top national security advisers plan to present for his signature next week, according to administration officials.

Leading this proposed civilian expansion will be two veteran senior diplomats: Peter W. Galbraith, who will be the deputy to the top United Nations official on the ground; and Francis J. Ricciardone Jr., who will get the unprecedented title of "deputy ambassador" to boost the diplomatic heft of the U.S. Embassy. Obama last week nominated Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the former U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, as the country's ambassador.


Although the overall civilian deployment plan still awaits Obama's approval, the State Department has already solicited applications for 51 new positions it expects to fill at the embassy and in Afghan provincial reconstruction teams by July. Up to 300 additional civilians are anticipated under the strategy recommendations."

The unprecedented title of "deputy ambassador" -- hmnn, I wonder -- is that the Deputy Chief of Mission position under a nicer name? Or does that mean, Ambassador Ricciardone is the embassy's #2 and some other hombre is going to be DCM/#3? The quiet re-launched in the last few days of the new spruced up website of the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization must not be an accident. See below. As far as I can tell the listed vacancies have not changed so I am presuming that the solicited applications mentioned in the report above were from internal applicants. As to the "hundreds of additional diplomats" I have no idea if those will be new hires or "go there" directed assignments; we'll have to wait until next week when the President signs off on this. Related Post: A Diplomatic Surge? What’s the Campaign Plan? Update 3/20:

In the March 19 Daily Press Brief, the Spokesman addressed the civilian surge for Afghanistan saying in part:

“And one of the things that we’re looking at, at this moment, is trying to increase the number of civilians. We’re looking at, as part of the review, the possibility of deploying an additional 51 civilians, some of which would be part of what we call the 3161 – I think a number of you are familiar with that. It’s – basically, these positions are one-year, temporary, non-career positions. And we would also – we’ll be looking to increase the number of Foreign Service officers. These people would be deployed to Kabul and to the PRTs that we have around the country. And so no final decision has been made on numbers, but this is what we’re considering doing.”

Okay, so no official word on how many FSOs (if you've heard anything from the grapevine, please share) are going. But I'm wondering what these 51 folks would be doing exactly in Afghanistan? And where would you find 51 reconstruction/stabilization specialists who would want to sign up for a job and be kicked out after a year -- Michigan, Rhode Island and California?

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