Friday, July 29, 2011

Cops Kabul Edition: Building Afghanistan's National Police at $1.26 Billion

Afghan National Police (ANP) recruits listen t...Image via WikipediaAfghanistan has an annual revenue of $1 billion. And we're spending $1.26 billion to train the Afghan National Police. Both OIGs for the State Department and Defense Department are not impressed at how State is handling the DOD funds for the police force we're building there.

The joint OIG report recommends that "DoD and DOS officials [....] develop procedures for monitoring the obligation and expenditure of DoD funds for the ANP training program and initiate a potential Antideficiency Act violation investigation. Also, DOS should increase the scope of the pre-payment invoice reviews to identify and reject costs that were not authorized or services not provided before payment." From the summary of the report:

DOS officials did not appropriately obligate or return to DoD approximately 172.40 million of approximately $1.26 billion of DoD funds provided for the ANP training program. This occurred because DOS lacked adequate procedures for obligating, monitoring, and deobligating DoD funds for the ANP training program. Moreover, DoD officials did not validate whether the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) officials obligated funds in accordance with the reimbursable agreements. In addition, the DOS contracting officer’s representative approved contractor invoices for payment for approximately $2.07 million that were either not authorized or were for services not provided. This occurred because DOS officials did not always perform a detailed review of invoices before payment and relied on a post-payment review of invoices to identify overpayments and obtain refunds from the contractor. As a result, we identified total potential monetary benefits of approximately $124.62 million.*

When recovered, these funds could be used for valid ANP training program requirements or other DoD requirements. In addition, if not corrected, incorrect obligations of approximately $74.91 million could result in potential Antideficiency Act violations.

Here is what $1,000,000,000 dollars look like (via visualizing the U.S. debt): So these pallets of money plus change is what we're spending on building a police force in Afghanistan. So hey, State can't make heads or tails over this big chunk of money; can you blame them for mishandling the funds?

image by

In 2006, an Interagency Assessment of Afghanistan Police Training and Readiness summarized the end-state of the police program in Afghanistan as follows:
"The intended end state of the U.S.-funded APP is an effective, well-organized,professional, multiethnic national police force that is trained and equipped to provide a safe and secure environment for the people of Afghanistan and a force committed to the rule of law. The ANP need to be led well, paid decent salaries, and trained and equipped to carry out their assigned security and law and order missions. The program’s goal is to establish a self-sustaining ANP – a police force able to attract and retain qualified candidates and to operate with minimal international assistance."
The same assessment also made the following point:
"The high illiteracy rate among the police recruits is problematic. Obviously it is easier for the recruits to process the subject matter when they can read and write. In addition, the assessment team observed that the classes for literate recruits have more lively discussion and more student participation than do the illiterate classes. Nevertheless, there is no discernable difference between the literate and illiterate students during the practical exercises, such as high-risk traffic stops, handcuffing, building searches, full contact baton training, and vehicle searches. It must be noted that illiterate policemen cannot perform the full spectrum of professional police duties. Thus, to the degree that the ANP is manned by illiterate personnel, it cannot meet the performance standards of a fully professional police force."
Apparently we also reformed its pay structure, so that its Lt. General gets paid seven times its previous salary but a lowly patrolman gets $80 dollars a month, $10 dollars more than its previous salary:
Before Reform After Reform
$107     Lt General       $750
$103     Maj General    $650
$95       Brig General    $550
$92       Colonel            $400
$88       Lt Colonel       $350
$83       Major              $300
$78       Captain           $250
$69      1st Lieutenant  $200
$66      2nd Lieutenant $180
$62      Sergeant           $115/$140/$160
$70      Patrolman         $70/$80

Pay per month in USD
Finally, the assessment notes that the Afghan government does not/not have the revenue to pay its police.

Imagine an end-state of the police program in Afghanistan that is self-sustaining, professional and multi-ethnic and blah, blah, blah ....presumably composed of the Pashtuns and the Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks, Aimaks, Turkmen, Balochs and others.

This is obviously a problem, particularly in a country where the national literacy rate is 28.1%.  Of course, every problem has a solution, silly!

Just yesterday, DOD showed off Dr. Jack D. Kem, the deputy to the NATO Training Mission Afghanistan commander, Army Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV; he was touting the progress in the Afghanistan training mission:
The typical recruit is “physically fit, clear-eyed and they want to work,” Kem said. “They are survivors and highly motivated.” But they also are illiterate. “About 86 percent come in and can’t count to four,” he said. “They have not lived in wealth, so many have never seen running water or driven a vehicle. There are a lot of things that we have to do that wouldn’t be typical in the West.”
“We have 110,000 people in literacy courses,” Kem said. “In 10 years, school enrollment has gone from 800,000 to 8 million. Some of that is from our assistance.”

So to sum up --

The somebodies decided that Afghanistan must have a professional police force. Check.

Hard to make them professional when they're not literate.The somebodies proceeded to give them literacy courses. Check.

The somebodies also reformed their pay structure. Check.

When all is said and done, remember that Afghanistan does not have the money to pay the salaries of its police force.

Oh, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - even IF we succeed in building a "professional" police force over there, who's going to write their checks when we're done visiting?

In the end-state imagined here, we'll be in Afghanistan like the song goes -- Forever and Ever Amen! And you call this a win/win situation?

Holy mother of goat and all her crazy nephews!

Related item:
DoD and DOS Need Better Procedures to Monitor and Expend DoD Funds for the Afghan National Police Training Program (Report No. D-2011-080 and AUD/CG-11-30)


Uzbek National on Revoked Student Visa Indicted for Threatening to Kill President Obama

US Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrestImage via WikipediaVia the U.S. Attorney’s Office | Northern District of Alabama | July 26, 2011:

Illegal Alien from Uzbekistan Indicted for Threatening to Kill the President and Possessing Machine Gun and Grenades

BIRMINGHAM—A federal grand jury today indicted an Uzbek national for threatening the life of President Barack Obama and illegally possessing weapons.

The indictment was announced by U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance; FBI Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Patrick J. Maley; Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Roy Sexton; Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent in Charge Raymond R. Parmer Jr.; and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Special Agent in Charge Glenn N. Anderson.

The indictment filed in U.S. District Court charges ULUGBEK KODIROV, 21, of Uzbekistan, with four counts of threatening the president—on July 9, July 10, July 11, and July 13. Count five charges Kodirov with being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm, and count six charges him with unlawfully possessing a fully automatic weapon. Both of those counts refer to a Sendra Corporation Model M15-A1 rifle.

Count seven of the indictment charges Kodirov with receiving and possessing an unregistered grenade on July 13.
Kodirov was arrested July 13 at a motel in Leeds after he procured the machine gun from an undercover agent, according to the arrest complaint and supporting affidavit, which were filed July 14. He was arrested on a charge of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm.

Kodirov came to the United States in June 2009 and remained in the country on a student visa. His student visa was revoked April 1, 2010, for failure to enroll in school, according to the arrest affidavit.

At the time of Kodirov’s arrest, he was living at an extended-stay motel in Pelham.

Kodirov faces maximum prison penalties of five years on each count of threatening the president, and 10 years on each of the weapons counts.

Note that the press statement indicates that he came to the United States in June 2009 but there is no mention what type of visa he used to enter the country, only that he "remained in the country on a student visa."  Did he come as a tourist? Did he change status to a student visa once he entered the U.S.?  Apparently his visa was revoked in April 2010 and all this time he remained in country while on illegal status.  Did DHS/ICE look for him?  If he did not threaten the president, would he still be hanging out in an extended-stay motel? 

Senate Confirms Bill Burns as Deputy Secretary of State

Mintimer Shaimiev and William Joseph Burns.Image via WikipediaExecutive nominations confirmed by the Senate July 27, 2011:

William J. Burns, of Maryland, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service with
the Personal Rank of Career Ambassador, to be Deputy Secretary of State.

Also confirmed, Gary Locke, of Washington, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the People's Republic of China and Robert S. Mueller, III, of California, to be Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for a term expiring September 4, 2013.

Secretary Clinton released a press statement on July 28 on Ambassador Burns confirmation:

Today, Bill Burns began serving as the Department of State’s newest Deputy Secretary of State, alongside Tom Nides. I am grateful for Bill's decision to continue his nearly 30 years of service to the American people as we implement President Obama’s ambitious foreign policy agenda.

As our most senior Foreign Service Officer, Bill has advanced U.S. interests all over the world. He has been on the frontlines during some of the most significant foreign policy breakthroughs in recent years, from building international consensus on free trade, to curbing the nuclear threat posed by Iran, to nurturing democracy in the Middle East, to helping negotiate the historic START arms control treaty with Russia.

Wherever he has served, Bill has set the standard for leadership in our Senior Foreign Service. He is our country's senior-most professional diplomat for a reason -- he is the best in this business, a role model for generations of Foreign Service Officers and someone whose counsel both the President and I hold in the highest regard.

I look forward to working even more closely with Bill to tackle some of the most difficult challenges we face, as we help build a more peaceful and prosperous world.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Foreign Affairs Group Urges Expansion of Foreign Service, a Week Later, House Appropriations Committee Slashes State Dept/USAID Funding

The Foreign Affairs Council is a non-partisan umbrella group of eleven organizations concerned about U.S. diplomatic readiness. It recently released its fifth biennial assessment of the stewardship of the Secretary of State as a leader and manager.  The report which was released a week ago includes a notation that says "not all signatories agree with everything contained in this report, although they unanimously concur with all conclusions and recommendations."  Excerpts below:

An increase of 1,069 State positions during the tenure of Secretary of State Colin Powell (2001-2005) was more than absorbed by the civilian surges in Iraq and Afghanistan plus substantial increases in consular officers (more intensive scrutiny of visa applications to protect our frontiers) and in security officers (to protect others being deployed). Inaction on staffing during the tenure of Secretary Condoleezza Rice (2005-2009) left the foreign affairs agencies with huge deficits in the human resources needed to do what was asked of them in the post-9/11 international landscape. Secretary Rice did propose a robust budget for FY 2009 asking for about 1,000 new positions for State and 500 for USAID and obtained OMB approval for these increases. However, given that FY 2009 was a “lame duck" period for the Bush administration, it did not appear at the time that the budget request would prosper in the Congress and, in any case, would not be acted upon until well after Rice’s departure.
The FY 2009 appropriations bill added 992 new Foreign Service positions at State and 300 positions at USAID.
...[S]oon after taking office the Administration submitted a FY 2010 budget request that succeeded in adding 764 Foreign Service positions at State and 350 positions at USAID.
The FY 2009 and FY 2010 staffing increases that achieved a 17 percent expansion of the Foreign Service were a remarkable accomplishment for Secretary Clinton, President Obama and Congress. Yet, with most of the new employees being sent out just to fill existing vacant positions, Foreign Service staffing levels still fell far short of that needed to fully restore America’s diplomatic and development capacity.
[T]he Administration’s FY 2011 budget request (forwarded to Congress in February 2010) sought 410 new Foreign Service positions at State and 200 at USAID. One year later, with the FY 2011 budget still pending before Congress (and opposed by the Republican majority in the House), the Administration submitted its FY 2012 budget request seeking an additional 150 Foreign Service positions at State and 165 at USAID. Thus, as of May 2011, the combined FY 2011 and FY 2012 unmet Foreign Service staffing requests totaled 560 at State and 365 at USAID.
Unfortunately, when Congress belatedly passed the FY 2011 budget in April 2011, it did not include funds to hire additional personnel above attrition. Furthermore, as this FAC report goes to press, Congress appears poised to reject the Administration’s FY 2012 request to strengthen staffing at the State Department and USAID.

Resources for Staffing and Training

1. Secretary Clinton should pursue her budget proposal to strengthen diplomacy and development assistance by securing funding for an additional 1,250 Foreign Service positions at the State Department and 650 at USAID by FY 2014.

2. To achieve the above recommendation the Secretary should make completion of Development 3.0 the first priority. Small reductions in the various assistance program accounts would fund the personnel increases now pending without damaging the development effort.

3. The Secretary should use a portion of the new positions to complete the staffing of a Foreign Service training complement equal to 15 percent of core staffing in order to provide the professional education and training needed to raise the overall level of performance of the State Department and USAID.
The report is available here but seems to have slipped into a dark hole inside the beltway. Too dark to read there.

On Jul 26, the House Appropriations Committee released the fiscal year 2012 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill:
The bill includes a total of $39.6 billion in regular discretionary funding, which is $8.6 billion or 18% below last year’s level. Included in these reductions are cuts back to the fiscal year 2008 levels or below for certain operations and assistance accounts. The bill also includes $7.6 billion designated as Global War on Terror funding, which is $1.1 billion below the President’s request.
State Department Operations and Related Agencies – The bill contains a total of $11.9 billion in discretionary funding for operational costs of the State Department and related agencies – a decrease of $3.9 billion below last year’s level and a $3.1 billion below the President’s request. This includes funding for programs such as diplomatic and consular affairs, embassy security and operations, assessed contributions to international organizations, and international broadcasting. The bill also eliminates temporary pay raises for overseas officers.

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Operations – The bill contains $1.04 billion for USAID – a reduction of $488 million from last year’s level and $705 million below the President’s request. The bill halts new hiring at USAID and stops expansion of facilities overseas associated with that hiring.

Global War on Terror – The bill includes Global War on Terror (GWOT) funding for efforts and activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, GWOT funds will support security forces and police previously funded by the Department of Defense. GWOT funds will also support civilian programs in support of the military’s counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan.
For the subcommittee draft text of the FY 2012 State and Foreign Operations Bill, please visit:

This is a Republican-sponsored bill.  GOP members hold seven of the 11 seats on the House Appropriations State and Foreign Operations subcommittee. On July 27, the bill was reported to the Full Committee on voice vote.  The Full Committee markup is scheduled for August 3rd.

There are again talks about the elimination of "locality pay" and even the "F" word. Locality pay and furloughs sounds familiar; didn't we had these talks just months ago? But this will be a much larger drawn-out battle not just on staffing the Foreign Service but funding for diplomacy and foreign aid in 2012. Even if the State bill is "only one and a quarter percent of the overall budget."  Most foreign aid recipients do not vote; but of course, countries receiving US aid have their own lobbyists and presumably they will be working "all hands" and earning their pay in the months ahead.

The Cable's Josh Rogin reports that SFRC's Senator Kerry has also unveiled his bill on July 27 (apparently with no participation from Senator Lugar; not a good sign) that would fully fund the State Department and USAID operations at the level requested by the White House.  Josh notes that "nobody knows if those funds will be set aside for international affairs when the appropriators weigh in. And the ongoing negotiations over the debt ceiling could change the financial picture for State and USAID as well."

The text of Senator Kerry's bill is here, with an expanded summary here, and a fact sheet on the bill here.

So the duel is officially on.

If there is a compromise (oh dat dirty, dirty word), it will presumably be between the 18% mark. Senator Kerry will not get his full funding, and the GOP will not get its full 18% cuts. It is also conceivable that the State/USAID funding could become casualties in the "we're going to be the next banana republic debt ceiling" negotiations.

CNN reports that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already warned members of the House of Representatives that she "will recommend personally" that President Barack Obama veto a bill that would severely restrict State Department operations, international organizations and foreign assistance.

But what good is that warning when the debt ceiling catastrophe and its attendant side effects are heading our way like a Chinese bullet train?

2012! It's sooner than you think. Well now, where is John Cusack when you need him?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Locke confirmed to be Ambassador to China by unanimous consent

The US Senate @ 10:43 AM

By unanimous consent, the Senate confirmed Gary Locke, of Washington, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the People’s Republic of China.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

US Mission Afghanistan: Ambassador Crocker returns, assures everyone "There will be no rush for the exits..." and that's okay since our soldiers for 2023 will start kindergarten this fall

On July 25, Ambassador Ryan Crocker was officially sworn in at the U.S. Embassy Kabul as U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan. He was sworn in by "someone rather more junior than the Secretary of State," by an FSO named Zane (so junior, no last name needed) who "represents the future of America’s Foreign Service" according to the transcript of the ambassador's remarks. 

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
Photos from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr

Ambassador Crocker also presented his diplomatic credentials to Afghan President Hamid Karzai at a ceremony at the Presidential Palace on the same day.  He arrived in Afghanistan on July 24.

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
Photos from US Embassy Kabul/Flickr

by Ambassador Ryan Crocker at Swearing-in Ceremony
July 25, 2011 (excerpts)
We are at a time of transition in Afghanistan.  It is a time for us to step back and for the Afghans to step forward, as they are doing.  There can be no more clearer evidence than in last week’s successful security transition.  This is an indicator of the progress that Afghanistan has achieved in recent years. 

However, I think all of us – Americans, coalition partners, the international community, and the Afghan leadership – know that we must proceed carefully. There will be no rush for the exits.  The way we do this in the months ahead will have consequences far beyond Afghanistan and far into the future. 

Frankly, we left the wrong way in the early 1990’s, and we all know the history of those decisions:  the civil war, the rise of the Taliban, sanctuary for Al Qaida, and 9/11.  So how we proceed as partners in support of Afghanistan is critical.   We have to think this through carefully, we have to consult with the Afghan government, and the coming year will be critical in setting the right glide path.

Those of us in the international community face challenges at home as well.  Our people are tired of military involvements, and the expense of blood and treasure. But my answer to that, again, is to remind those who say we should be done of the incalculable long-term effects and costs of getting it wrong.  We owe nothing less to the next generation of Afghans, Americans, and others not to repeat the mistakes of 20 years ago.

Despite the complexity of the issues, the process of transition over the next few years is not only clear, it is underway.

President Karzai must be having a good day.  Job security assured for many more years to come since there will be "no rush for the exits."  And if the "transition" is timed well, I bet we could make that transition lasts until 2050. Just visiting, of course.

The soldiers who will fight the war in Afghanistan and elsewhere in 2023 and beyond will be entering kindergarten this fall.      

updated @12:01 pm EST

UK's Rory Stewart: Time to end the war in Afghanistan

British MP Rory Stewart walked across Afghanistan after 9/11, talking with citizens and warlords alike. Now, a decade later, he asks: Why are Western and coalition forces still fighting there?

Via TED:

Now the member of British Parliament for Penrith and the Border, in rural northwest England, Rory Stewart has led a fascinatingly broad life of public service. He joined the Foreign Office after school, then left to begin a years-long series of walks across the Muslim world. In 2002, his extraordinary walk across post-9/11 Afghanistan resulted in his first book, The Places in Between. After the invasion of Iraq in 2003, he served as a Deputy Governorate Co-Ordinator in Southern Iraq for the coalition forces, and later founded a charity in Kabul.

To secure his Conservative seat in Parliament, he went on a walking tour of Penrith, covering the entire county as he talked to voters. In 2008, Esquire called him one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century.

He says: "The world isn't one way or another. Things can be changed very, very rapidly by someone with sufficient confidence, sufficient knowledge and sufficient authority."

"Stewart has long known that diplomacy of the deed is the only kind that matters." - Parag Khana

Rory Stewart was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Malaysia. He served briefly as an officer in the British Army (the Black Watch), studied history and philosophy at Balliol College, Oxford and then joined the British Diplomatic Service. He worked in the British Embassy in Indonesia and then, in the wake of the Kosovo campaign, as the British Representative in Montenegro. In 2000 he took two years off and began walking from Turkey to Bangladesh. He covered 6000 miles on foot alone across Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal -- a journey described in The Places in Between.
In 2003, he became the coalition Deputy Governor of Maysan and Dhi Qar -- two provinces in the Marsh Arab region of Southern Iraq. He has written for a range of publications including the New York Times Magazine, the London Review of Books, the Sunday Times, the Guardian, the Financial Times and Granta. In 2004, he was awarded the Order of the British Empire and became a Fellow of the Carr Centre at Harvard University.

He is also the author of The Prince of the Marshes And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq.

US Embassy Mexico: Kept in the Dark on ATF's Fast and Furious Escapades

Richard A. Serrano of LAT's Washington Bureau reports that officials at the US Embassy in  Mexico raised concerns that U.S. guns were showing up at crime scenes in Mexico. But ATF officials kept the embassy in the dark about the operation to sell weapons to straw purchasers to trace smuggling routes.

If true, this is an excellent example of interagency uncooperation. Excerpt:

As weapons from the United States increasingly began showing up at homicide scenes in Mexico last summer, U.S. Embassy officials cabled Washington that authorities needed to focus on small-time operators supplying guns to the drug cartels.

Embassy officials did not know that at least some of the weapons were part of an ill-fated sting run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, in which illegal straw purchasers were allowed to buy guns so smuggling routes into Mexico could be traced. Ultimately, ATF lost track of an estimated 1,700 weapons that were part of the so-called Fast and Furious operation, which began in November 2009.
Active links added above. Read the whole thing here.

LAT has also obtained a copy of an SBU telegram (sensitive but unclassified) from US Embassy Mexico dated July 2, 2010 sent via SMART with the subject "Mexico Weapons Trafficking - The Blame Game." The cable includes the names of the drafting officer, clearance officers (EXEC, POL, ATF, CBP, ICE). Click here to read the cable.

Fast and Furious was somebody's dumb idea masquerading as a light bulb, approved by several somebodies who sign off on it. But nobody with spine and integrity has come forward to claim this exhibit in "poor judgment." I'm waiting for a top dog to step to the podium and announced to all interested that "mistakes were made."    


Monday, July 25, 2011

State Dept to SIGIR: Son of a donkey, you have no bizness checking on our private army!

Special Inspector General for Iraq ReconstructionImage via WikipediaSpencer Ackerman of Danger Room has a recent exclusive on the pissing contest currently unfolding between Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) and Patrick Kennedy, the State Department's Under Secretary for Management. What are they fighting over? Apparently for starters, the oversight of private security contractors in Iraq. Excerpts:

For months, Bowen’s team has tried to get basic information out of the State Department about how it will command its assembled army of about 5,500 private security contractors. How many State contracting officials will oversee how many hired guns? What are the rules of engagement for the guards? What’s the system for reporting a security danger, and for directing the guards’ response?

And for months, the State Department’s management chief, former Ambassador Patrick Kennedy, has given Bowen a clear response: That’s not your jurisdiction. You just deal with reconstruction, not security. Never mind that Bowen has audited over $1.2 billion worth of security contracts over seven years.
So far, the Department has awarded three security contracts for Iraq worth nearly $2.9 billion over five years. Bowen can’t even say for sure how much the department actually intends to spend on mercs in total. State won’t let it see those totals.
About as much information as the department has disclosed about its incipient private army comes from a little-noticed Senate hearing in February. There, the top U.S. military and civilian officials in Iraq said that they’d station the hired guard force at Basra, Irbil, Mosul and Kirkuk, with the majority — over 3,000 — protecting the mega-embassy in Baghdad. They’ll ferry diplomats around in armored convoys and a State-run helicopter fleet, the first in the department’s history.

I wonder if the State Department would relent if SIGIR's name gets tweaked to Special Security Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. We would all still call it SIGIR, right?

Continue reading U.S. Blocks Oversight of Its Mercenary Army in Iraq.

SIGIR was created in October 2004 by a congressional amendment to Public Law 108-106 triggered by the June 28, 2004, dissolution of the CPA.  The amendment allowed SIGIR to continue the oversight that CPA-IG (Coalition Provisional Authority Office of Inspector General) established for Iraq reconstruction programs and operations. Specifically, SIGIR is mandated with the oversight responsibility of the use, and potential misuse, of the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF) and all obligations, expenditures, and revenues associated with reconstruction and rehabilitation activities in Iraq.

Not sure when is SIGIR actually gets terminated but its website indicates that an amendment to a public law puts it "ten months after 80% of the IRRF has been expended." Since DOD is leaving Iraq, and since the PRTs are closing shop or transitioning into diplomatic posts, I imagine that the 80% had been reached and presumably SIGIR will be disbanded "soon."

But SIGIR still wants to look under the rocks, particularly those related to the State Department's expanded private army in Iraq. And frankly, I don't think its a bad idea.

Reportedly, staffing in Iraq will grow from 8,000 to 17,000, most of them presumably will be private security contractors.  The State Department will be running its own hospitals and its own air fleet, also by contractors. I have been following this closely but have no idea what the logistics would be like for life support - food, fuel, water, etc. This is the first time the State Department is undertaking a gargantuan mission in what is still hostile territory. 

I suspect that the State Dept would like to have its own IG conduct the Iraq reviews. But given that SIGIR has at least seven years experience in Iraq, the State Dept's resistance on this issue does not look good.

A draft bill in Congress addresses the SIGIR issue with the State Dept including the following:
(b) COOPERATION WITH SIGIR.—The Secretary of State shall fully and unreservedly cooperate with audits conducted by the SIGIR and with any information requests which in the opinion of the SIGIR are required to comply with requirements imposed on the SIGIR by law.

Related posts:


US Diplomat in Mexico Writes Salon Advice Columnist About Her Foreign Service Blues

American Blues 'Is Here'Image via WikipediaI totally missed this one on diplomatic blues until I was alerted by one of DP's readers. Below is an excerpt from advice columnist Carey Tennis of Salon's Since You Asked column. Apparently written by a US diplomat posted in Mexico with "Diplomat Adrift" as signoff:

I am a 31-year-old woman. I am Foreign Service officer (read: diplomat) with the Department of State posted to my second assignment, in Mexico. I have experienced profound professional development in this unorthodox career, for which I am unequivocally grateful. As a prospective grad student of 25 I agreed to a fellowship that committed me to a minimum of three years of service (I'm now at nearly four years) after grad school as a diplomat.
In the past nearly four years, I've exited an engagement (by my choice, months after entering the Foreign Service, to a wonderful man not enthused by the Service and the complications his life would have undergone) and have had a series of at best minor relationships with people of equal transience and of otherwise committed situations. These are dating compromises I would not have otherwise made had my situation not been circumscribed (by regulation and a limited dating pool).

Being a typical, generalist diplomat whose life is dictated by "the needs of the Service," my life is mostly governed by external forces. Admittedly, the work is rewarding. But the personal sacrifices are proving unbearable.

I am quintessentially American. As much as I revel in and love foreign cultures, I identify essentially as American. And in as much, I want an American male companion. I have no interest in having children and am honest enough to not expect -- of myself or a companion -- a lifelong relationship. What I want is a viable, nurturing, fun, loving and intellectual relationship with a like-minded adult. Thus far, this has been somewhat elusive since I entered into this weird, transient world of the Foreign Service. For example, the only meaningful relationship I have had in four years was for five months with a married military representative who recently returned to his wife and son after spending years apart. Dysfunction and awkward compromises abound in government work done abroad. We all need intimacy, will seek it out, and act upon it no matter the violations of integrity.
So, my question is: How do I transit into life as a civilian? I have skills (government program coordinator of a $37 million portfolio, grants warrant officer, government contracts representative, diplomat, bilingualist, M.A. in international policy and nonproliferation, etc.), but I do not know the path ahead and it scares me to leave government employment without a strategy.

Mr. Tennis writes a response here. Also, apparently the Mexican company Grupo Bimbo is now the biggest baker in the U.S. and he notes that "And any company that names itself Bimbo could use some diplomatic skills..." Well, I think he's right on that one.

Read the whole letter and advice here. Just as interesting, read the comments section - 52 comments and counting.

A Salon commenter who uses the name —roadlesstraveled makes a good point:
[G]iven your life of diplomacy, tact and discretion, what prompted you to provide so many identifying characteristics about yourself?

Happy to be told that the foreign service office(s) in Mexico are big enough that you can't be as easily identifiable as it seemed to me you would be.

Perhaps the good news is that US Mission Mexico has the largest consular operations in the world. That's where a good chunk of entry level officers spend their first and some second tours. The mission adjudicated almost 1.1 million  temporary visas to the United States in 2010. Its consular staffing in 2009 indicated a complement of 154 consular officers and 484 consular Locally Engaged staff. Yes, it is that big.

But just how many second tour officers are working in Mexico and how many are women who are 31 years old? No idea, but you can bet that in the small pond of the Foreign Service, folks may be counting them off already and trying to figure out the writer's identity. Not only because she's suffering from angst and sharing a personal fork in the road publicly (her self-disclosure and candor took some guts, I think), but also because of the other details in her letter, particularly her "meaningful relationship." I suspect that the latter more than the former will generate disapproval inside the very traditional big house.      

The thing that I find most sad about this is - here is a 31-year old diplomat who is on her second tour, and she had to write to an advice columnist for "mentorship and guidance?" Where are her friends? Where are her official mentors?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Peter Van Buren: Oh, dude -- WHO did you get "more than upset" at the State Department?

Peter Van Buren, an FSO and 20+ year veteran of the State Department with a book coming out in fall had an interview with Rose Lichter-Marck of Publishers Weekly.  It is a brief interview, but here for the first time, a Foreign Service Officer is on the record on what type of pressures and threats the Foggy Bottom "tigers" engage in when they are not/not fond of your writing.

And it's only July, his book is not even out until September. I can't imagine what this will be like when reviews start coming in.  This darn new media thing, you can't sweep anything under the rug, anymore.  


PW: Did you struggle with the decision to write about working for the State Department?

Van Buren: I did, and I continue to do so. The State Department, where I have worked for 23 years, is like a Mafia family: one doesn't talk about family matters outside the family. I can't name one objective book written by a State Department Foreign Service Officer—the few who do write things stay strictly within the exciting travel memoir genre or, if they are former Ambassadors, the "I was right all along" personal insights. When a colleague learns about my book, the first question is always "Are you in trouble?" I am afraid the answer is yes. State started an investigation against me—a hearing is scheduled coincidentally just about the time the book comes out. My current boss also told me she was asked to "deliver a message," just like in a gangster movie, from a "senior Department person" that my writing had left people at Foggy Bottom "more than upset" and threatened additional discipline, including suspension, if I continue.
Continue reading, The Whistleblower: PW Talks with Peter Van Buren.

Peter is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People (American Empire Project). The book will be available on September 27. You may pre-order it here

By its title alone, one can surmise that this is not one of those happy talk books about blundering into Iraq and the subsequent national building, excuse me, reconstruction.  This is also something that would not merit a look in official dissent awards. That's the one where you disagree over a policy, write a cable, and it travels slowly up the stairs to the 7th floor, or wherever it is these cables end up these days. The awards are for dissenting quietly, in house, in well ordered arguments that does not topple the chairs.  Books and blog posts are excluded, of course.

One example of a dissent awarded in recent years was persuading the State Department to issue commissioning certificates for FS specialists. One of this year's awards was for dissenting on official policy not to send a U.S. government representative to the annual Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima. In August 2010, 65 years since a US bomb left Hiroshima in ruins, the US Ambassador to Japan attended the ceremony for the first time. 

The State Department prides itself with its dissent channel. Even AFSA says that this is "absolutely unique within the U.S. government in that the foreign affairs agencies encourage dissent through the dissent channel." Supposedly, sending a dissent cable does not harm your career and a list of FS luminaries are cited as proof of that. 

But -- but, if the relevant issues of our time are not showing up in this "absolutely unique" dissent channel, doesn't that tell us something?

Anyway sorry, FSO Peter Van Buren, no award for you this year.  Next time you have something relevant to say about where our young men and women are dying, and where billions of taxpayer dollars are siphoned into a black hole everyday, please do not write a book or blog about it.  Bundle them into cable format and send off quietly and nicely upstairs, please. The American public won't ever get to hear the gritty details but you just might get an award for it, instead of being subjected to an "investigation."

Bonus points -- you won't get anyone "more than upset" over in the big house and you'll still have assignments and promotions to worry about.

Related posts:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

NOC, NOC - Who's There? The Diplomats. The Diplomats Whoever You Are, You're Not/Not Allowed to Enter Peshawar

Because, obviously, friends don't let friends travel to such a dangerous place. Har! Har! Har!

There is a new low in the battered relationship between the United States and Pakistan. For the fourth time in several days, US embassy personnel were stopped by local Pakistani security forces from entering Peshawar for lack of something dainty called a "No Objection Certificate (NOC)."

Pakistan's The Nation reports that "the government of Khyber Pakhtun-khwa has banned the entry of foreigners in the province without No Objection Certificate (NOC) of Interior Ministry." Excerpt below:

"The sources said the KP government took this step due to the law and order situation in the province.

The Home Department issued instructions to IGP that without NOC of the Ministry of Interior, no foreign national including diplomats could enter the limits of Khyber Pakhtun-khwa. If any foreigner was found in violation of the orders, he might be taken into custody."
Here's more from the same report. Now, I imagined that its reporters have examined those diplomatic cars and are reporting objectively that they all are "bullet proof with latest jammers."
"In another attempt of violation of Pakistani law, seven US Embassy personnel tried to enter Peshawar without complete travel documents, however, the officials turned them back to Islamabad from Peshawar Motorway toll plaza here on Wednesday. Sources said that seven personnel of US Embassy were travelling in three separate vehicles bearing registration number SV-706, ST-169, Q.H -790 and all of them were bullet proof with latest jammers."
You can read in full here. Wash your eyes afterwards.

Elsewhere it has been reported that the US diplomats told the local officials that they had been told by the US embassy that a NOC was not required for entry into Peshawar. Pakistani officials, apparently informed them that possession of diplomatic passports was not enough. 

What -- it's like you went to sleep one day and the next day Peshawar is a different country, with its own foreign policy and bilateral arrangements?

This is kind of like having New York declare that all Pakistanis traveling there not only need US visas, they must also get a New York No Objection Certificate from the state. Or for that matter, having the states of California, Illinois, Texas and Massachusetts (where there are Pakistani diplomatic posts) declare that no foreigners, including Pakistani diplomats may travel to those states without written permission.

I take it that the Chinese are also required to get a NOC? Hookay. Then the Pakistanis could argue that this is not plain, old, harassment of US diplomatic personnel in Pakistan. 

I supposed it would also be quite easy to show that those Americans are not being singled out. If the public can see how many foreigners, including those who want to kill and maim Pakistanis and Americans have been apprehended in Khyber Pakhtun-khwa.

Say, you think those Afghan Talibans or other terrorists on training go line up at the office and apply for a NOC?

GPS Tracking for State Dept Staffers in the Danger Zones of Iraq, Af/Pak and Yemen

Wapo's Walter Pincus recently wrote about a new high-tech system to track U.S. staff on risky tours:

The State Department is installing advanced, classified security systems in Pakistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen to monitor staff movements in those countries where moving among local populations remains dangerous, according to department budget and contract documents.

The Blue Force Tracker system uses a small transmitter mounted on a vehicle, an aircraft or an individual that sends continuous signals to a Global Positioning System satellite and back to a computer in a secure command post. The command post computer shows precise locations within a 10-foot radius of tracked individuals, vehicles or aircraft on ever-changing map displays.

“This critical technology provides department personnel with the confidence to travel into highly dangerous areas, knowing there is an over-watch and a reaction capability to help them at the push of a button,” according to a State Department fiscal 2012 budget document presented to Congress. About $9.4 million was being sought to support the tracking system in Iraq next year.
No State Department official would discuss the systems on the record.

Read the whole thing here.

It's supposed to give staff confidence because the watchers will be able to pinpoint their location -- and give the State Department an "over-watch and a reaction capability to help them [(staff] at the push of a button."

So -- if we have another Raymond Davis incident in any of those four countries, this would allow for a quick extraction of personnel in danger, is that the idea? Because -- really, unless you can retrieve/extract the personnel in danger, pinpointing location is just that - a dot on the screen. 

The report did not say what type of GPS system this might be -- a wearable item like a watch, a smart phone with GPS locator, an implantable device more or less the size of rice, a waist-clip on GPS enabled thingee like a pager or I don't know -- a fake eye, a third eye, an earing, an anklet ....

If a GPS rice implant is available, that might be the best choice - nothing to remember, nothing to forget, nothing to misplace or pack or hide when you travel. And if you ever get into a tussle with overly excited security agents of the host country, nothing that may break (that Uncle Sam can then charged you with). Of course, since this is the government, they probably will have somebody check out your GPS rice implant every year for the annual inventory. Be prepared to be scanned like Ms. Kitty.

It does look like the Blue Force Tracker Program (BFT) is deploying into the hot zones of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen since Olgoonik Global Security, LLC is hiring Security Specialist IIs for all four countries; it says so online:

Subsidiary:     Olgoonik Global Security, LLC
Location:     Pakistan
Organization:     BFT
Requisition Number:     2010759

The Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), Office of Security Technology (ST), is responsible for the Department's Blue Force Tracker Program (BFT). BFT utilizes GPS satellite tracking for personnel, vehicles and aircraft. It is designed to maximize visualization of designated assets traveling and conducting operations in hostile or hazardous areas.  This position will be responsible for working with DS/C/ST and Embassy personnel on-site and providing technical guidance on both the BFT tracker hardware and monitoring software.

Among other things, it requires that applicants have "Bachelor’s Degree plus seven years of experience preferred; High School Diploma plus 12 years of experience can substitute for a Bachelor’s Degree." Also the following:
Security Clearance:                                       
TOP SECRET Clearance with SCI Access Required
  • Must have a current US Government TOP SECRET Personnel Security Clearance and be able to qualify for SCI access
  • Must have a current US Government Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) (less than 4-1/2 years old) or be able to successfully complete a U.S. government administered Single Scope Background Investigation.
  • Must be a U.S. Citizen.
  • Must be eligible for and able to obtain and maintain required Security Clearance/access approvals.
Physical Demands:

The physical demands described herein are representative of those that must be met by an employee to successfully perform the essential functions of this position.  The employee must be able to stand, walk and sit for a prolonged period of time; use hands and/or fingers to handle or feel objects, tools or controls; operate office equipment; reach with hands and arms; climb stairs; balance; stoop; kneel; talk and hear. Specific vision abilities required by the job include close and distant vision.  The employee must occasionally lift and or move up to 50 pounds.  Medical conditions or physical impediments may disqualify candidates from overseas work where comprehensive medical care may be limited or unavailable, or where the condition or impediment would put the individual at unacceptable risk.  Duties may be performed in an active combat zone where the employee would be required to seek shelter. There may be stress, psychological and physical hardships, and the possibility of living in field conditions associated with this position.


Overseas travel will be required up to 90% of the calendar year in high-threat areas.  Domestic travel may be required for training and program coordination.
Work Environment:  Full-time, 84-hour week usually under hazardous conditions when deployed in a theater of operations.  Personnel meeting the provisions of Department of State Standardized Regulations, Chapter 650 – Danger Pay Allowance, and performing in a location determined a hazardous duty area are eligible to receive danger pay up to 35% over basic compensation.

Living Environment:  Lodging, meals, medical and basic life support services will be provided while in a theater of operations, as well as the prevailing per diem rate for incidental expenses (IE).

Work Location:  The location of high-risk environments will be disclosed upon interview.
Interested? Check it out here. You have to locate each job vacancy using the location country drop down menu on its website.

A side note -- DOD has been using Blue Force Tracking (BFT) for years.  In 2006, Popular Science did a piece on BFT used in Iraq. Read "Winning-and Losing-the First Wired War."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

How much is that pony in USA's Main Street window? Foreign money alleged to win friends and influence people in WashDC

On July 18, Dan Froomkin of HuffPost Politics writes about how foreign money can find its way into US political campaigns. Not just corporations but foreign governments are apparently opening up their wallets and spending tens of millions of dollars a year buying influence and friends in Washington by hiring well-connected lobbyists. The article quotes Benjamin J. Freeman, a post-doctoral fellow at the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on investigating waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government saying, "There's pretty clear evidence that foreign money is being used, at least indirectly, to finance U.S. elections." In February this year, HuffPo also highlighted a lobbying and PR giant in Washington representing Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea

On July 19, the US Department of Justice charged two individuals for conspiring to act as unregistered agents of the Pakistani Government. Foreign money of a different stripe, as these individuals are accused of conspiracy for pitching for Pakistan without declaring themselves agents of a foreign government:

Via DOJ/WASHINGTON – Two individuals have been charged with participating in a long-term conspiracy to act as agents of the Pakistani government in the United States without disclosing their affiliation with the Pakistani government as required by law.
Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai, 62, a U.S. citizen and resident of Fairfax, Va., and Zaheer Ahmad, 63, a U.S. citizen and resident of Pakistan, are charged in a one-count criminal complaint in the Eastern District of Virginia.   The complaint alleges that the defendants have conspired to: 1) act as an agent of a foreign principal without registering with the Attorney General in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA); and 2) falsify, conceal, and cover up material facts they had a duty to disclose in matters within the jurisdiction of Executive Branch agencies of the U.S. government.

Fai was arrested this morning. Ahmad remains at large and is believed to be in Pakistan.   Both face a potential sentence of five years in prison if convicted.
According to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, Fai serves as the director of the Kashmiri American Council (KAC), a non-governmental organization located in Washington, D.C., that was founded in 1990 and also goes by the name “Kashmir Center.”   The KAC describes itself in educational materials as a “not-for-profit organization dedicated to raising the level of knowledge in the United States about the struggle of the Kashmiri people for self-determination.”

The affidavit alleges that, although the KAC held itself out to be a Kashmiri organization run by Kashmiris and financed by Americans, the KAC is one of three “Kashmir Centers” that are actually run by elements of the Pakistani government, including Pakistan’s military intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI).   The two other Kashmir Centers are in London, England, and Brussels, Belgium.

According to the affidavit, a confidential witness told investigators that he participated in a scheme to obscure the origin of money transferred by Pakistan’s ISI to Fai to use as a lobbyist for the KAC in furtherance of Pakistani government interests.   The witness explained that the money was transferred to Fai through Ahmad, an American living in Pakistan.   A second confidential witness told investigators that the ISI created the KAC to propagandize on behalf of the government of Pakistan with the goal of uniting Kashmir.   This witness said ISI’s sponsorship and control of KAC were secret and that ISI had been directing Fai’s activities for the past 25 years.

When questioned by the FBI about these relationships in March 2007, Fai allegedly stated that he had never met anyone who identified himself as being affiliated with the ISI.   In March 2010, the Justice Department sent Fai a letter notifying him of his possible obligation to register as a foreign agent with the Justice Department.   In his written response to the Justice Department, Fai asserted that neither he nor KAC had ever engaged in any activities for or provided any services to Pakistan or any foreign entity.  In a March 2011 interview with the FBI, Fai again denied having any relationship with anyone in the Pakistani government.

The affidavit alleges that Fai has acted at the direction of and with the financial support of the Pakistani government for more than 20 years.   The affidavit alleges that four Pakistani government handlers have directed Fai’s U.S. activities and that Fai has been in touch with his handlers more than 4,000 times since June 2008.   Fai’s handlers have also allegedly communicated with Ahmad regularly.

For example, the affidavit alleges that Fai repeatedly submitted annual KAC strategy reports and budgetary requirements to his Pakistani government handlers for approval.  One document entitled “Plan of Action of KAC / Kashmir Center for Fiscal Year 2009” laid out Fai’s intended strategy to secure U.S. Congressional support in order to encourage the Executive Branch to support self-determination in Kashmir; his strategy to build new alliances in the State Department, the National Security Council, the Congress and the Pentagon, and to expand KAC’s media efforts. 

According to the affidavit, Fai also set forth KAC’s projected budgetary requirements from the Pakistani government for 2009, including $100,000 for contributions to members of Congress. There is no evidence that any elected official who received financial contributions from Fai or the KAC was aware that the money originated from any part of the Pakistani government.

According to the affidavit, Fai and the KAC have received at least $4 million, from the Pakistani government since the mid-1990s through Ahmad and his funding network.   The money is allegedly routed to Fai through Ahmad and a network of other individuals connected to Ahmad. Ahmad allegedly arranges for his contacts in the United States to provide money to Fai in return for repayment of those amounts in Pakistan. 

To date, neither Fai, nor Ahmad, nor the KAC has registered as an official agent of the Pakistani or Kashmiri governments with the Attorney General as required by FARA.
Active links added above.  DOJ reminds the public that an indictment and criminal complaint contain mere allegations and that defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Some quick thoughts --

It would be interesting to find out which congressional campaigns allegedly received contribution from these folks.   DOJ was quick to say "There is no evidence that any elected official who received financial contributions from Fai or the KAC was aware that the money originated from any part of the Pakistani government." Well, sure ... sure ... but DOH had just charged these men; what kind of stinky slugs will come out during the court process remains to be seen. 

Then, of course, there is the allegation that at least one of the men charged has "acted at the direction of and with the financial support of the Pakistani government for more than 20 years." Really. If these allegation is true, are our congressional reps so stupid, all that time they have no idea what these guys were up to? If these alleged agents brought up the Kashmir subject at all, you'd think that our elected reps would have paid closer scrutiny to the source of their  political contributions?  Or is that really hard to do when they write you a check?  Unless they were all just kicking the can around and having tea and doing all that hard, hard work of legislating .... The timeline of the Kashmir conflict is here.

Also, if true that the money came from the GOP, that is, the Government of Pakistan, specifically from the ever so famous military-intel service (which has no idea UBL was hiding in Abbottabad), and given that country's really bad tax collection system, is it possible that the money allegedly used by these guys to gain friends in Washington, is from the same chunk of green bucks we sent over there to gain friends in Pakistan?

Oops! Did you hear me rolling around and laughing all the way there?  Well, let's hope this case is tried in open court and not behind closed doors filed under the folder of "national security."

Politico has more on the money angle here. Laura Rozen has additional reporting on the Pakistani Embassy's connection here.