Friday, September 9, 2011

Modest Diplomatic Footprint Returns to Tripoli Without Ambassador Cretz

So the State Department is sending some of its embassy personnel back to Tripoli. Joan Polaschik, the deputy chief of mission who ran the embassy after Ambassador Cretz left the country due to Wikileaks, and led the evacuation of personnel/American citizens in February this year is leading the team back into Tripoli this weekend.

During the DPB at the State Department, one of the correspondents asked "why is it not appropriate for Ambassador Cretz to go now? I mean, I understand the Embassy is a mess and his residence is a mess, but he’s the ambassador. So why would his deputy go instead of he himself?"

Well, that is an excellent question.  Response somewhere below after the video.

Video below is of Joan Polaschik via CNN:

From the Daily Press Brief:

QUESTION: Okay. My other question was on Libya if anybody else had anything on this one. On Libya, whether you could update us on any additional findings from your technical team in Tripoli and when you feel you’ll be ready to return diplomats to Tripoli?

MS. NULAND: Well, thanks for that question, Kirit. We – our technical team has been working on our property there. We have some – quite a bit of additional work to do. I think I said yesterday that what we found was a chancery that had been burned, looted, and trashed. There’s also considerable damage at Ambassador Cretz’s residence. We have had a small technical team there for a number of days. Tomorrow we will enhance that team a little bit and send our first policy people back in.

Still a relatively modest footprint, but this enhanced team will be led by Ambassador Cretz’s deputy, Joan Polaschik, and she’ll have a couple of policy people with her and some more security folks and building folks to work on getting the premises ready for the reopening as soon as we can. I think you can imagine that Ambassador Cretz is getting antsy and wanting to go back as soon as we determine that that’s appropriate. But the policy team will also enable us to have direct diplomatic contact with Mr. Tarhouni and other members of the TNC and members of the international community in the UN who are now working in Tripoli.

QUESTION: A couple follow-ups. They’re going to be working out of the Embassy compound or an alternate location?

MS. NULAND: We – I think for security reasons I’m not going to comment on where we’re located, but they are also going to be working on getting us back to a permanent facility.

QUESTION: And this is not the official reopening of the Embassy in your view, correct?

MS. NULAND: Correct. The flag will not go up until Ambassador Cretz is able to return.

QUESTION: And do you – are you still maintaining a team in Benghazi? Is Chris Stevens still there? Is he going to be moving in as well with your DCM?

MS. NULAND: For the coming period, we’re going to maintain the presence in Benghazi because there are also important players in Benghazi for Chris Stevens and his team to work with.

QUESTION: Okay. And how many people are going into Tripoli?

MS. NULAND: I’m just going to describe it as a very modest diplomatic footprint. It’s a handful of diplomats and an enhanced diplomatic security presence.

QUESTION: Why is it – just out of curiosity, why is it not appropriate for Ambassador Cretz to go now? I mean, I understand the Embassy is a mess and his residence is a mess, but he’s the ambassador. So why would his deputy go instead of he himself?

MS. NULAND: We have no place for him to work, we have no appropriate connectivity to Washington, we have no – a limited number of cars, and all that kind of stuff that you need to work. We have to reconstitute our Libyan staff who have loyally managed a lot of our property and assets in Libya. So we just – we need some time.

QUESTION: So this is tomorrow?

MS. NULAND: This is later tomorrow evening, yeah.

QUESTION: And can you spell the name of the deputy who is going back?

MS. NULAND: Yeah. P-o-l-a-s-c-h-i-k. Joan is her first name.

QUESTION: It’s all over WikiLeaks. You can Google it.

QUESTION: The – I’m not trying to cast aspersions here, but if the local Libyan staff that you said worked so well, how was it that the Embassy was so damaged?

MS. NULAND: Well, some of our property was not damaged, but, you know, these – the folks who are trying to guard the chancery and Ambassador Cretz’s residence were literally driven off by thugs with AK-47s who threatened their lives, even as they tried to protect our property.

QUESTION: Do you know when that was?

MS. NULAND: We actually don’t know precisely when it was, because of course, we had evacuated the property, but it was sometime after that. We believe it was --

QUESTION: Yeah. But the people who went there to look at it presumably have spoken to them, right?

MS. NULAND: Have spoken to?

QUESTION: The local Libyan staff?

MS. NULAND: Again, I don’t have a report from the Diplomatic Security team on the ground as to when they think it happened, but I – we believe it was in the spring sometime.

QUESTION: And your buildings are still salvageable, you think, or --

MS. NULAND: Again, we need to get more people in there to see. There’s some structural damage. They’re – so we have to see what we need to do. I think it’s quite clear that we’ll have to have a temporary location for some time while the buildings are refurbished.

QUESTION: All right. And is there any – I’d imagine that most of the class-side material was destroyed before the Embassy was shuttered, but was – can you say whether there was any compromise to anything sensitive at the Embassy while you were gone? Has that been determined?

MS. NULAND: We’re not concerned about the compromise of classified information.

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