Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Project Unsustainable: Why the Afghan National Security Forces Need to be On Reality Teevee Now

Well, just about everything is reality teevee now, why not our reconstruction project centered on the Afghan National Security Forces?  The United States and donor countries are paying for it and it's kind of like the hollywoody equivalent of army and police training. There are well meaning good guys, and bad meaning bad guys, insurmountable challenges, military toys, guys learning to shoot straight, contractor reps on near heart attacks, and gazillions of money floating around for this or that. There's gotta be drama in all that, don't ya think?

And the best part is, this reality show may have better longevity prospects as teevee show goes, because hey, we might actually be in Afghanistan beyond 2014 (when we're supposed to leave).  If rumors are true that negotiations are underway for the United States to stay in Afghanistan until 2024, that would fit perfectly with the IMF's prediction that the Afghan government will be incapable of paying ANSF costs until at least 2023.

Afghanistan is in fact, playing a double game to suit its interest -- badmouthing the United States when it suits it's need and negotiating behind the lime lights to get the United States to stay to protect its interest.   If we're asked to stay beyond 2014, don't mistake it for true love; we have the juice, that's all (even if that juice was bought on credit); we're like the deep pocket sugar person that the dysfunctional individual with a sweet habit can't live with and can't live without - a very messy relationship.

DynCorp trainer with Afghan National Police recruits.
(U.S.Air Force photo cited by CWC)
In any case, the Commission on Wartime Contracting (CWC) cited Project Unsustainable above as a formidable example of potential waste in the U.S.-funded contracting for training of, and facilities construction for, the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), comprising the Army, Border Police, and National Police. Excerpt below:
Between FY 2006 and FY 2011, Congress appropriated nearly $39 billion to set up and maintain the ANSF; the fiscal year 2012 budget request would add almost $13 billion to that total. Nearly half of the FY 2012 request—over $5 billion—would go toward clothing, equipping, and paying the ANSF.22

Prospects for the Afghan government’s sustaining the ANSF are dubious. The entire country’s gross domestic product (GDP) for FY 2011 is about $16 billion at the official exchange rate, and the national government’s domestic revenues are about $2 billion.23 The Afghan Ministry of Finance budget proposal for 2011-2012 indicates that given the increased security costs from the increase in size of the ANSF, the Afghan government is expected to continue to depend on donor grants for up to 30% of its operating budget.24

The outlook for sustaining the Afghan army and national police is complicated by several factors:

▪▪The ANSF, currently numbering about 305,000 personnel, is growing toward a newly authorized strength of 352,000, which will increase sustainment costs.

▪▪The Commission has received a preliminary U.S. military estimate of ANSF sustainment costs for just the period 2014-2017 in the neighborhood of $30 billion.

▪▪The International Monetary Fund has concluded that the Afghan government will be incapable of paying ANSF costs until at least 2023.25

▪▪Donor-community support depends upon unpredictable political decisions that may be heavily influenced by severe fiscal pressure on most developed countries’ budgets.

In a similar vein, the Acting Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction told the Commission, “The Government of Afghanistan has never had the financial resources to sustain ANP [Afghan National Police] salaries at either the current or projected levels.”

Besides spending billions on contracts to train, clothe, and equip the ANSF, the United States has also committed $11.4 billion since 2005 to build bases, police stations, border outposts, and other facilities for the ANSF. In addition, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers awarded two contracts in 2010 for ITT Corporation to provide $800 million in operation-and-maintenance services for 663 ANSF facilities over a five-year period.

The Afghan government has already indicated that it cannot pay such costs from its resources.29 The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction told the Commission at its January 24, 2011, construction hearing that “the entire $11.4 billion [in construction spending] is at risk,” and “both contracts are expected to exhaust their funding well before [the end of ] their five-year performance period.”30

Anyway, if we end up spending the next 12-13 years in Afghanistan training its armed forces, I only have one request.  Please, please, please -- can we please have this on teevee 24/7, 365 days a year so we can watch this project continue to unfold in real time?  And if SIGAR needs to make arrests, can we do that with cameras rolling, too? Because why not?

Pardon me? Why do we need to see this 24/7, 365 days until the 2024 season? Um, silly -- so we can see on teevee just how stoopid we've all been in allowing a sugar old baby with a bad habit to play us this well.

Michele Bachmann's Soviet Union must be laughing its head off right now.

Related posts:
On to 2024: Our Pretend 51st State of Afghanistan -- Not/Not a Laughing Matter | Aug 22, 2011

Cops Kabul Edition: Building Afghanistan's National Police at $1.26 Billion | Jul 29, 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 | Tuesday, July 26, 2011 |

$6 Billion Later, Afghan Cops Aren't Ready to Serve | Diplopundit | Mar 22, 2010

Weapons Accountability in Afghanistan | Diplopundit | Feb 16, 2009

WASTED in Iraq and Afghanistan: $12 million every day for the past 10 years, true story!

The Commission on Wartime Contracting (CWC), an independent, bipartisan legislative commission established to study wartime contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan has released its 240-page final report, “Transforming Wartime Contracting: Controlling Costs, Reducing Risks, ” this morning.

The full report is here. You can also download the report by section/chapter here. We're trying to read fast but we have interruptions, more on the details later. Quick excerpts below:

At least $31 billion, and possibly as much as $60 billion, has been lost to contract waste and fraud in America’s contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Much more will turn into waste as attention to continuing operations wanes, as U.S. support for projects and programs in Iraq and Afghanistan declines, and as those efforts are revealed as unsustainable.
Contract waste, fraud, and abuse take many forms:

▪▪An ill-conceived project, no matter how well-managed, is wasteful if it does not fit the cultural, political, and economic norms of the society it is meant to serve, or if it cannot be supported and maintained.

▪▪Poor planning and oversight by the U.S. government, as well as poor performance on the part of contractors, have costly outcomes: time and money misspent are not available for other purposes, missions are not achieved, and lives are lost.

▪▪Criminal behavior and blatant corruption sap dollars from what could otherwise be successful project outcomes and, more disturbingly, contribute to a climate in which huge amounts of waste are accepted as the norm.
The number of Department of Defense (Defense), Department of State (State), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contractor employees in Iraq and Afghanistan has varied, but exceeded 260,000 in 2010. The contractor-employee count has at times surpassed the number of U.S. military personnel in the two countries. Most contractor employees are third-country nationals and local nationals; U.S. nationals totaled more than 46,000, a minority of those employed.
The United States will not be able to conduct large or sustained contingency operations without heavy contractor support. Avoiding a repetition of the waste, fraud, and abuse seen in Iraq and Afghanistan requires either a great increase in agencies’ ability to perform core tasks and to manage contracts effectively, or a disciplined reconsideration of plans and commitments that would require intense use of contractors.

Failure by Congress and the Executive Branch to heed a decade’s lessons on contingency contracting from Iraq and Afghanistan will not avert new contingencies. It will only ensure that additional billions of dollars of waste will occur and that U.S. objectives and standing in the world will suffer. Worse still, lives will be lost because of waste and mismanagement.

The Commission says $31 to $60 billion but also note that given the often chaotic environment in Iraq and Afghanistan, this is a conservative estimate of the money that has been lost through contingency contracting. The Commission estimates that at the mid-range, waste and fraud during contingency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan averaged about $12 million every day for the past 10 years.

That's right.  An average of $12 million every day for the past 10 years.

Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot -- how the heck do you spend $12 million a day? Read the report. It's a true story, real enough to make you weep!


Monday, August 29, 2011

US Embassy Kabul Returns to Regular Social Media Programming ....

Last week, I wrote about US Embassy Kabul's Facebook Diplomacy in Need of Search and Rescue.  Apparently, the day before I posted that entry, the embassy's Flickr account was magically resuscitated. Magical because it was not there when I posted but it is there now. Teh-heh! In any case, the embassy's photostream is on again and we're now seeing more than the Afghans enjoying the night entries in its Facebook page.

Below is CODEL Levin in Afghanistan on August 21, 2011:

U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker hosts a dinner for U.S. Senators Carl Levin (D-MI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), General John Allen, Commander, ISAF, Mohammad Massoom Stanekzai, Secretary of the High Peace Council and Minister of Finance Omar Zakhilwal at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, August 21, 2011.

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

It also has Ambassador Crocker's visit to Herat here, and USAID Director Rajiv Shah's visit to Kajaki Dam here.  Enjoy!


Friday, August 26, 2011

James Hogan Case: Wife of Missing Diplomat Charged with Witness Tampering, False Statements, and Obstruction of Justice

The spouse of James Hogan, the U.S. diplomat who disappeared in the Netherlands Antilles has been charged by DOJ in a multiple count indictment for her alleged role in the "obstruction of a multi-national investigation into the disappearance of her husband":

Via DOJ:

Florida Woman Charged with Witness Tampering, False Statements, and Obstruction of Justice in Relation to Her Husband’s Disappearance
U.S. Department of Justice August 24, 2011   

WASHINGTON—A Gainesville, Florida woman was charged in a seven-count indictment filed yesterday in the Northern District of Florida for her alleged role in the obstruction of a multi-national investigation into the disappearance of her husband, James Hogan, then an employee in the U.S. Consulate in Curacao, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Pamela Cothran Marsh for the Northern District of Florida; Ambassador Eric J. Boswell of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security; and John V. Gillies, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Miami Field Office.

Abby Beard Hogan, 50, was charged with two counts of making false statements to federal law enforcement officials, one count of witness tampering, and four counts of obstruction of justice. According to the indictment, on the night of Sept. 24, 2009, James Hogan, an employee at the U.S. Consulate in Curacao, a Caribbean island that was part of the Netherlands Antilles, left his home on foot and subsequently disappeared. The next day, a diver located his blood-stained clothing on a local beach. American officials and the government of Curacao and the Kingdom of the Netherlands opened an investigation into the disappearance of James Hogan.

The indictment alleges that, during the course of the investigation, Abby Hogan repeatedly provided false information to U.S. law enforcement about the time period before James Hogan’s disappearance and withheld relevant information. Abby Hogan allegedly denied, among other things, that she was having an extramarital affair and that she and her husband had argued about the affair on the night of Sept. 24, 2009. Additionally, the indictment alleges that Abby Hogan deleted multiple e-mails discussing the events leading up to and surrounding her husband’s disappearance. The indictment also alleges that Abby Hogan instructed at least one person to conceal information from investigators.

The indictment is merely an allegation, and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Abby Hogan faces a maximum of five years in prison for each false statement count and 20 years in prison for each count of witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Teresa Wallbaum of the Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Williams for the Northern District of Florida. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided assistance. The case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of State, Diplomatic Security Service and the FBI’s Miami Field Office and Legal Attaché Office in Bridgetown, Barbados. Assistance was also provided by Curacao law enforcement authorities.
The Latin American Herald Tribune in its coverage notes the following additional info:
Abby Beard Cope and her husband met while they were both serving as officers in the Navy in San Diego. He was a 1982 graduate of the US Naval Academy. She served for 11 years as an attorney in the Judge Advocate General legal corps and he served for 22 years as a pilot, before joining the State Department. They served 2 tours in Africa (Cote d'Ivoire and Botswana) before what was supposed to be a two year assignment in Curacao. The Hogans have 5 children.

James Hogan's body has never been found and his disappearance remains an unsolved mystery.

This is the first indictment in the disappearance case that will mark a two year milestone next month. I'm afraid this case may take a tawdry turn before it is over.

Related posts:

UK's Tandem Ambassadors Assignment to 'Love Embassy' Roils Yerevan

The Daily Mail recently reported that the UK's Foreign Office has been accused of making Britain a laughing stock by appointing a married couple to share a senior diplomatic appointment.

The married couple is Jonathan Aves and his wife Katherine Leach who will take turns to be the ambassador to Armenia, each doing the job for four months while the other spends that time looking after their children.

Critics in the former Soviet republic say the unusual arrangement means Britain is displaying a ‘lack of seriousness’ towards the country.

The controversy comes after it was revealed that the current ambassador recently married an Armenian woman working at the British Embassy.

The two developments have led to local politicians nicknaming the British mission the ‘love embassy’.

Mr Aves, 51, and his 41-year-old wife will both have the title of ambassador when they move to the Armenian ¬capital, Yerevan, next January with their children Maddie, seven, Mimi, four, and Joe, two.

The report quotes Arman Navasardyan, the country's former deputy foreign minister:
‘The British do not take us Armenians seriously. I doubt whether they would send a couple to the United States or many other countries.’

‘Ambassadors normally spend their first two years getting to know the country and only the third year brings real returns. Yet here we have a wife as ambassador for a few months, then her husband. Then what? Madam again?

‘The attitude here is predictable – raised eyebrows and laughter. We don’t understand why Armenia should be treated in this manner.
The report also notes that the couple recently completed a joint posting at the British Embassy in Tokyo but the move to Yerevan will be their first ambassadorial role.  The FCO gave two reasons for the tandem posting:
A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘Joint postings are a modern way of working which help deliver the best possible diplomatic service in the host country.
‘They also provide better value for the UK taxpayer as they keep families together and reduce travel and shipping costs.’
That is so understandable.  Read in full here.

Below is an excerpt from the official FCO statement:
Mr Jonathan James Aves and Ms Katherine Jane Leach, a husband and wife team, have been appointed Her Majesty’s Joint Ambassadors to the Republic of Armenia in succession to Mr Charles John Lonsdale, who will be transferring to another Diplomatic Service appointment. Mr Aves and Ms Leach will take up their appointment during January 2012. Both Mr Aves and Ms Leach will be permanently resident in Yerevan and alternate in exercising the functions of Ambassador on a four-monthly rotation.

Mr Aves and Ms Leach joined the FCO in 1996 and 2000 respectively, following careers in academia and public opinion research. Together they have many years’ experience and knowledge of the history, languages and culture of the South Caucasus and the wider region. Their FCO careers have covered a range of policy areas including security policy, EU trade and development, energy security and human rights. Most recently they had a joint posting to Tokyo where Mr Aves coordinated the UK’s political input into Japan’s 2008 G8 Chairmanship and Ms Leach coordinated UK and Japanese positions in advance of the UN climate change summit in Cancun and worked with UK and Japanese business to promote low carbon prosperity. In 2011, Mr Aves worked on the UK’s input into the UN Human Rights Council on issues such as Libya, Syria and Iran.

The Daily Mail calls it a bizarre job share but I think their joint ambassadorial posting is just swell. They are both career diplomats; can't expect Ms. Leach to just stay home and be homemaker while Mr. Aves run the British mission!  C'mon folks, it's the 21st century!

The State Department has a few tandem couples who are ambassadors (two comes to mind, Mary Warlick in Serbia; James Warlick in Bulgaria; Kristine Kenney in Thailand and William Brownfield, formerly Ambassador to Colombia and now with INL) but I cannot recall a joint ambassadorship ever.

On second thought, because we do have political ambassadorships, I'm not sure a joint ambassadorship would be a good precedent for the U.S. diplomatic service.

Although if it happens, I'm sure it would be a hit for political contributors and über bundlers  in search of plum assignments as Mr. Ambassador and Mrs. Ambassador!


America's Gatekeeper in El Salvador Talks to 400 Applicants a Day?

The August 22 issue of WaPo has a piece from the Partnership for Public Service on the Federal Player of the Week - this one, about America's gatekeeper in El Salvador, a first tour foreign service officer.  The profile makes it sound as if the FSO, as "America's gatekeeper in El Salvador" is the only one guarding the gate over there.

To borrow Ambassador Crocker's phrase, "he is by no means alone."

As far as I'm told, there are about a dozen or so first tour officers working at our embassy in San Salvador, all performing visa and citizen services work at the consular section.  The other thing that seems striking about this profile is that the profilee is the embassy's Fraud Officer/Manager, a full time job in itself. That alone is not striking but speaking with "as many as 300 to 400 Salvadorans a day" is.  How many minutes can you really spend investigating each of the 400 applicants in an 8-hour workday?  Even if you spend 1.8 minute speaking with each one, you'll be at work until 9 o'clock at night with an hour of lunch to spare.  And anyway, I have never heard of officers doing 300-400 interviews a day even in the top visa mill posts (and El Salvador is not even a visa mill).

Well, have you?

He also appears to be the Ambassador's staff aide, which makes me wonder how he gets any sleep. Because as we all know, fraud and the front office are two of the more demanding assignment for newbies at any embassy.  And if he is serving concurrently in both positions in a section with a dozen other newbies, one has to wonder what's going on with the embassy's Junior Officer Rotation Program (JORP).

Excerpt below:

At just 26 years old, Vice Consul Navarro R. Moore is America’s gatekeeper in El Salvador, putting out the U.S. embassy’s welcome mat for Salvadorans seeking visas for legitimate entry to the United States, while maintaining a watchful eye for gang members, fraudulent documents and people who enter sham marriages for immigration purposes.

Moore is gratified when he can approve visas for people who want to visit family members living in the U.S. or who need life-saving medical treatment at an American hospital, but also when he can prevent people from illegally smuggling a child to the U.S. or passing off a fake birth certificate.

“We want people to come and see Disney World and enjoy the United States, but at the same time we have to follow the law and protect America and our borders,” Moore said.

Moore oversees three locally employed staff members who assist him as he searches for information and documents that detect and prevent passport and visa fraud. He speaks with as many as 300 to 400 Salvadorans a day, many of whom are intimidated about going to the embassy, and in his short time with them, he tries to put them at ease.

“He is the face of America, the first person, maybe the only person they’ll see,” said Ronald Robinson, a former State Department consul general and a mentor to Moore. “He must do his best to issue visas to those who deserve them and refuse those who can’t get them, in the most diplomatic

In this first tour of duty, Moore also handles requests for the ambassador, Mari Carmen Aponte, to participate in meetings and events, and prepares her by supplying her with pertinent information and helping with speeches.

While he may have just one foot on the diplomatic ladder’s first rung, Moore already is meeting people in high places. In his first year, Moore helped the ambassador host President Obama and the first lady, as well as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Read the whole thing here.

The article was reportedly prepared by the Partnership for Public Service and Nothing against profiles but write ups like these reminds me of the "s/he walks on water" performance evaluation variety ... makes me fall off my chair and hurts my brain.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

US Embassy Kabul: All U.S. workers in Afghanistan deserve praise

The August 23 issue of WaPo includes the following letter from Ambassador Crocker:

Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s story about State Department representative Carter Malkasian [“Walking the walk to win Afghans’ trust,” front page, Aug. 14] properly praised the work of such civilians in the transformation of Afghanistan. Mr. Malkasian was an outstanding officer, and the department was proud to have recruited, hired and trained him — first for Iraq and then for Afghanistan.

However, it is important to note that there are hundreds of foreign service officers and other federal agency workers doing similar work in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. Foreign service and civil service officers are highly regarded by the military and the Afghan people. More than 400 U.S. government civilians live and work with the military in more than 80 locations outside of Kabul, under conditions of danger and hardship. Our field personnel come from the State Department, the United States Agency for International Development and other federal agencies.
Even in Kabul, where 750 U.S. civilians live and work, there is nothing easy about service in Afghanistan. Our civilians volunteered to come here and are motivated by a deep sense of patriotism and service. Many go on to other difficult assignments, in the region or elsewhere, including back-to-back tours in Afghanistan.

We appreciate that The Post featured the good work of one civilian in Afghanistan but want to make it clear that he is by no means alone.

Ryan C. Crocker, Kabul

Hurricane Irene Shutters US Embassy in The Bahamas, Dependents Now on Authorized Departure

Map of The Bahamas (excluding the Turks and Ca...Image via WikipediaThe US Embassy in Nassau issued its Hurricane Irene Update on August 24, 2011:

This emergency message is being issued by the U.S. Embassy in Nassau to update U.S. citizens residing or travelling in The Bahamas or Turks and Caicos regarding Hurricane Irene.

On August 25-26, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau will be closed except for emergency services to U.S. citizens.

As of 2:00 p.m., the Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau is closed with tentative plans to reopen on Thursday, August 25, at 5:00 p.m. Hurricane Irene has become a strong category 3 hurricane with sustained winds at 120-125 mph. It is possible that the storm will strengthen still more on Thursday.

U.S. citizens in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos should have already completed any necessary actions to ensure their safety, and should remain indoors in a secure dwelling or shelter during this hurricane. Small craft operators in should remain in port. U.S. citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events, weather and marine forecasts, and monitor the National Hurricane Center and local media to stay aware of any weather developments in their area. For official information from the Bahamian and TCI governments regarding weather conditions, please monitor ZNS or other local media outlets.

Read in full here.

On August 23, the embassy's warden message includes an announcement that embassy dependents have been approved for authorized departure (leaving optional). Excerpt below:

The Under Secretary for Management has approved the authorized departure of dependents of U.S. Embassy personnel prior to the arrival of Hurricane Irene – expected on Thursday morning, August 25. The Department of State has issued a Travel Warning advising U.S. citizens to defer travel to the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos. We strongly urge U.S. citizens in The Bahamas to seriously consider departing while commercial flights are still available. It has been reported that the airport in the Turks and Caicos is already closed: U.S. citizens still there should seek cover immediately. The ability of the U.S. Embassy in Nassau to provide services in the aftermath of a hurricane will be severely limited. The Bahamas will soon be deciding if a suspension of flights is required. In general, Nassau’s international airport is closed if wind speeds reach more than 40 mph.

The embassy's warden page with updates is here.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Officially In: Susan D. Page to Juba, South Sudan

On August 18, President Obama announced his intent to nominate career diplomat, Susan D. Page to be the U.S. Ambassador to the world's newest country, the Republic of South Sudan. The WH released the following brief bio:

Susan D. Page currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs.  Prior to this assignment, she was Regional Director for Southern and East Africa at the National Democratic Institute.  From 2005 to 2007, she served as the Director of the Rule of Law and Judicial System Advisory Unit at the United Nations Peace Support Mission to the Sudan.  From 2002 to 2005, Ms. Page was the legal advisor to the Intergovernmental Authority on Development Secretariat for Peace in the Sudan.  Prior to that role, she served as Senior Legal Adviser and Chief of the Justice and Human Rights Unit for the United Nations Development Programme in Rwanda.  Ms. Page served as a Foreign Service Officer from 1993 to 2001, working as a Political Officer in Rwanda from 1999 to 2001 and as a Regional Legal Adviser for USAID in Botswana (1995-1998) and Kenya (1993-1995).  Ms. Page began her career at the State Department in 1991, where she served as an Attorney-Adviser for Politico-Military Affairs in the Office of the Legal Adviser.  Ms. Page received an A.B. from the University of Michigan and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.
Full text of announcement is here.

Inaugurating the new U.S. Embassy in Juba on South Sudan’s Independence Day
are Johnnie Carson,Colin Powell, Susan Rice and R. Barrie Walkley.
Photo from US Embassy Juba

Related posts:

Ronan Farrow, New Clinton Special Adviser for Global Youth Issues Now in a Committed Relationship

Ronan Farrow, 2009Image via WikipediaRonan Farrow who was officially appointed Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for Global Youth Issues last June is apparently "in a committed relationship with Chef Boyardee" as he "ate microwaved StateDept convenience store food at desk after 10pm at least twice" last week.

Well, sure, I wanted to know what you ate for lunch at your desk every day of the week since you came back to Foggy Bottom but you never said/tweeted anything about having a committed relationship with Chef B or about the State Dept cafeteria food. And he did. And not just about any food either but our top US banker's food, too!

Ronan Farrow
Pretty sure if #China found out what the @StateDept cafeteria's passing off as Chinese food it'd cause a diplomatic incident.
19 Aug

Ronan Farrow whose real name according to the ever reliable Wikipedia is Satchel Ronan O'Sullivan Farrow is the son of film director Woody Allen and actress Mia Farrow.  He is also the grandson of director John Farrow and actress Maureen O'Sullivan. 

But that's not why you should know him. Prior to this appointment, he worked in the late SRAP Richard Holbrooke's Af/Pak shop. For those who might exclaim, "He's so young!" or "But that's Mia Farrow's son!" -- Mr. Farrow apparently has the chops.  He graduated from college at age 15 and was accepted at Yale Law at 16 but deferred his admission to work for Ambassador Holbrooke. He is a graduate of Yale Law School and a member of the New York bar.  He has a long list of accomplishments for one who is not even 25 years old.  He will feel right at home in an organization full of high achievers.  It's a good thing he has his own office; the oldies not always goldies at State would not know what to do with him had he started in A100.

Below is his official bio at
Ronan Farrow
Special Adviser to the Secretary of State
Global Youth Issues
Term of Appointment: 06/30/2011 to present

Ronan Farrow is Special Adviser to the Secretary of State for Global Youth Issues and director of the State Department’s Global Youth Issues office. With youth populations swelling and young people driving global events to an unprecedented extent, Special Adviser Farrow is responsible for implementing and amplifying youth policy and programming throughout the Department. The Office of Global Youth Issues, created by Secretary Clinton as a result of a Department-wide review of youth policy, oversees an historic effort to empower young people as economic and civic actors through US programs, encourage governments to respond to youth through US diplomacy, and directly engage young people around the world.

A lawyer and former human rights advocate and journalist, Special Adviser Farrow assumed his current role following two years as the State Department’s Special Adviser for Humanitarian and NGO Affairs in the Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, overseeing the U.S. Government’s relationships with civil society and non-governmental actors.

Prior to joining the State Department, he served as Spokesperson for Youth at UNICEF, working with youth groups on the AIDS epidemic in Nigeria, on post-war reconstruction efforts in Angola, and in the Darfur region of Sudan. His writings on humanitarian and human rights issues have appeared in publications including the Los Angeles Times, the International Herald Tribune and the Wall Street Journal, and he has appeared on MSNBC, ABC and CNN, among others, advocating for children associated with armed conflicts. He has heavily emphasized youth engagement in his advocacy efforts, working at the forefront of the student movement on Darfur and touring the country speaking at universities as a Representative for the Genocide Intervention Network.

In 2008, he was awarded Refugees International’s McCall-Pierpaoli Humanitarian Award for “extraordinary service to refugees and displaced people.” In 2009, he was named by New York Magazine as their “New Activist” of the year and included on their list of individuals “on the verge of changing their worlds.” In 2010, Harper’s Bazaar named him their “up-and-coming politician of the year.”

He is a graduate of Yale Law School and a member of the New York bar. During his time at Yale Law School, he practiced at New York-based law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell. He has also served on the legal counsel team for the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, working on international human rights law issues.
Here he is at the UN during a meeting on youth at the General Assembly last month:

Full text of the speech is here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

US Embassy Kabul: Facebook Diplomacy Strategery in Need of Search and Rescue

I don't know if Ambassador Eikenberry included his social media adviser in his HHE when he packed out from the US Embassy in Kabul. See, ever since he left post, the embassy's social media outreach in Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube has not been the same at all.

The embassy's YouTube channel was never much to begin with. The most recent one posted five days ago was a 1.17 min video of  the U.S. Embassy in Kabul hosting an iftar in honor of Ramazan. But it only has three videos online. So I can't grouse too much about that.

It's Flickr page which used to have quite up-to-date postings has not been updated since August 13. One of the two photos posted on that date is of the "surrounding area at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday, February 7, 2011." LOL!

The other photo is an aerial view of "Parwan Province, Afghanistan, on Wednesday, June 15, 2011." Those barely visible blue thingies on the ground are called trucks.

It's Twitter page? I'm not sure you really need to clutter your follow option because even when there is breaking news and updates,!/USEmbassyKabul is not/not on it.  See this one below sent to us by one of our tipsters, S in Kabul:

But the changes in US Embassy's Facebook diplomacy strategery is nowhere more apparent than in Facebook, of course.

Much of the previous postings in its Facebook page were mission activities documented in photos posted in Flickr. But since the arrival of Ambassador Crocker, the photostream seems to have significantly dried up.  The embassy's Facebook page is now posting more virtual tours of some of the 50 states of the United States. There also seems to be more happy talk posted about the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

One post about local residents enjoying the nightlife, except the accompanying photo was taken in broad daylight.

In coordination with Uruzgan’s provincial governor and the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Tirin Kot, USAID funded the installation of 20 solar-powered street-lights in Tirin Kot. The lights were installed by Zularistan Ltd., an Afghan company, who also trained two local men selected by the mayor in how to operate and maintain them.
Local residents, shopkeepers, and security forces have all expressed their delight with the streetlights and say they have made them feel much safer. One community elder, Haji Abdul Raziq, whose home is located near one of the streetlights, said, “We are very happy about these kinds of projects. We used to be afraid at night because of the complete darkness. We hope such projects will be implemented in other parts of our province. Thanks a lot for supporting us.”

Another post about local residents enjoying the night, accompanying photo below also taken in broad daylight. Perhaps, Ambassador Eikenberry also packed out in his HHE the embassy's night photographer?

The remote district of Jani Kheyl in Paktika Province is home to approximately 35,000 people belonging mainly to the Molalzai, Jani Kheyl, and Malzai tribes. The Jani Kheyl bazaar, located in the district center, serves more than 500 people per day and includes four mosques, two schools, and approximately 215 shops. It has no connection to an electric grid.
Now that the new streetlights have been installed, the mood in the bazaar is much more positive. The new lights help the police patrol the area so that people feel safer and are staying out later at night, all of which has been a boon to business.
Khan Mohammad, a resident of Jani Kheyl bazaar, added: “Now everyone knows that the lights come on at night and they’re spending more time outside till late in the evening. The street-lights have helped the police a lot in patrolling the bazaar. They make the roads look nice too!”

Two is not a trend, of course, but we'll be watching how many more "Afghans enjoying the night" posts the embassy is able to come up with for our reading/viewing pleasure.

A couple of things that are particularly disturbing -- postings cited above were on the same week when the Brits suffered an attack of its British Council right in Kabul; there was no mention of that in FB. Not even a note of sympathy. I say disturbing because it's like the embassy is in a different universe; things are falling apart except inside the diplomatic compound.

In any case, the happy notes on the embassy's reconstruction efforts are written in English, not in Dari or Pashto.  So I'm also wondering which segment of the online population is the embassy trying to influence with these notes? Certainly not the Afghans!

Then there is this one post on Afghan women topping the judges class:
As a result of war and government instability, judicial training has been sporadic and largely inaccessible to women, with only 26 classes graduating over the 43-year history of the country’s Judicial Stage program. With USAID assistance, in May 2011, 140 students graduated from the Supreme Court’s Judicial Stage program, qualifying them to work as judges in courts throughout Afghanistan. As a whole, the 24 women in this year’s graduating class performed exceptionally well, taking nine of the top ten class positions.

One of its FB fans had the temerity to question the posting:

"So if 8% of the judges are female, where will these graduates of the Stage program go? Are there jobs for them in Afghanistan, or is this a program, that, with all of its good intentions, does not have the capacity to support actual judicial appointments upon graduation?"
So far no response from the embassy and it does not look like there is anyone there actually doing the engaging online besides the technical "engage," the Captain Picard kind.. 

I'm not sure how many more Afghans enjoying the night posts I can tolerate before I unfriend the embassy.  Of course, this could all be part of its new strategery of online "engagement" ...

And who knows what happened to the embassy's social media driver. What is clear is that Embassy Kabul needs to mount a search and rescue for its Facebook diplomacy. 

On to 2024: Our Pretend 51st State of Afghanistan -- Not/Not a Laughing Matter

The Telegraph's Ben Farmer in Kabul is reporting that the United States and Afghanistan are close to signing a strategic pact which would allow thousands of U.S. troops to remain in that country until at least 2024.

The agreement would allow not only military trainers to stay to build up the Afghan army and police, but also American special forces soldiers and air power to remain.

The prospect of such a deal has already been met with anger among Afghanistan’s neighbours including, publicly, Iran and, privately, Pakistan.

It also risks being rejected by the Taliban and derailing any attempt to coax them to the negotiating table, according to one senior member of Hamid Karzai’s peace council.

A withdrawal of American troops has already begun following an agreement to hand over security for the country to Kabul by the end of 2014.

But Afghans wary of being abandoned are keen to lock America into a longer partnership after the deadline. Many analysts also believe the American military would like to retain a presence close to Pakistan, Iran and China.

Wait, WAIT a minute ... the same government who calls U.S. personnel in Afghanistan "occupiers" actually wants us to stay? Folks, this is not/not a healthy relationship. The somebodies need some serious therapy. Call meee! I got names to recommend.

Anyway, when I wrote this post, I did a screen grab of how much we've spent on the war in Afghanistan (see below from By the time you read this, the amount is higher, of course, because the cost just drips on like a leaky faucet. Where are the plumbers when you really need them, huh? .... drip ....drip...drip....drip....

I was thinking of soldiers for 2023 entering kindergarten this fall; miss by 12 months! Youngest members bore the heaviest cost in Iraq, and no doubt, in Afghanistan, too. More here

So if true that the United State and Afghanistan are kinda keen on continuing this dysfunctional marriage of inconvenience, at least until 2024, we may have to call Afghanistan our pretend 51st state until then.

I don't think this is an unfair description since Afghanistan is the destination of so much pork from the US Treasury.  It is a surprise that its economy has not been dolarized yet. And to think that the Afghans can't even vote! Just imagine how much more money is allocated over there if even half of its 29 million inhabitants can vote!

Meanwhile, the taxpayers of Detroit, Michigan which has the highest poverty rate (36.4%) among American cities with populations greater than 250,000 will pay $205.1 million for its share of the Afghanistan war spending for FY2011. For the same amount of money, the following could be provided:

    154,202 Children Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for One Year OR

    2,869 Elementary School Teachers for One Year OR

    3,905 Firefighters for One Year OR

    28,881 Head Start Slots for Children for One Year OR

    64,154 Households with Renewable Electricity - Solar Photovoltaic for One Year OR

    171,078 Households with Renewable Electricity-Wind Power for One Year OR

    26,764 Military Veterans Receiving VA Medical Care for One Year OR

    49,682 People Receiving Low-Income Healthcare for One Year OR

    3,200 Police or Sheriff's Patrol Officers for One Year OR

    17,590 Scholarships for University Students for One Year OR

    36,952 Students receiving Pell Grants of $5550

Now if we calculate the cost of war share based on FY2011 numbers, it looks like Detroit, Michigan will be in the hook for some $2.6663 billion for Afghanistan in the next 13 years.

A pretend 51st state is not/not a laughing matter. I think its time we get out of the pretend 51st state business and start rebuilding our real states.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Muttering Behind the Hardline Mutters No More, Goodbye NDS

No Double Standards of Muttering Behind the Hardline will mutter no more. This makes me so sad but I understand.  Goodbye, NDS - I will miss your muttering, dude!

Below is his thoughtful goodbye post, recommended reading for FS bloggers.

Unintended Consequences

The thing about a Foreign Service career is that you never know where you will end up from tour to tour.  That's what makes it risky to publicly comment on anything even peripherally related to your job.  Who ever knows what the future holds.  You try to be careful.  But do this long enough, and the law of averages says you're bound to trip up at some point.  I did.  For you conspiracy theorists out there, no, "the Man" didn't get me.  I wasn't summoned, admonished, threatened. This damage was self-inflicted.

It's been a few years since I started this blog.  I'm ambivalent about the question as to whether I'd do it all again. I think it is probably more prudent to keep a private journal and then write your book after you retire.  That said, I sure enjoyed interacting with all of you.  I sure enjoyed the blog as a vehicle for making sense of my experiences.  I'm a guy who needs to write to organize his thoughts.

I love the blogosphere, and I want to see the Foreign Service community flourish with great commentary on diplomatic life.  I'll be continuing to follow you all and look forward to hearing about your adventures.  Just be very judicious about the topics on which you write and opine.  It's true that you have First Amendment rights; it's true that the "tigers" may never come after you; but the fact is that what you write will always follow you, and what today seems so innocuous may tomorrow be much less so.  It's no fault of your own.  Times change; the circumstances of your existence change.  Life is funny like that.

It has been a great privilege to touch and be touched by so many both within the Foreign Service and those contemplating the Foreign Service as a career.  I suppose I could shut the blog down on Blogger -- though nothing ever disappears on the Internet -- but I'm proud of many of the entries I put together over the years, and I think there is great value in many of them for those who want insight into the personal journey that takes place behind the curtain of the public career.  So I leave it here for whomever will find value in it. 
The original post is here with his contact email.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

State Dept on French-Vietnamese Blogger Currently on Trial in Vietnam -- Bonus Entry, the "Unless" Clause

This was in response to a taken question in the Office of the Spokesperson of the State Department on August 10, 2011:

Question: Do you have a comment about the French-Vietnamese lecturer and blogger who is currently on trial in Vietnam?

Answer: We are dismayed by Vietnam’s conviction of French-Vietnamese blogger Pham Minh Hoang to three years in prison and three years under house arrest. No individual should be prosecuted for exercising the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Vietnam’s prosecution of individuals for expressing their views contradicts the government’s commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Human rights are and will remain a key component of our relationship with Vietnam.

File away in the press clippings folder; might be useful as Exhibit A when the "Tigers" over at the State Department run after you and your blog.   

Of course, it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway) that the official response did not say anything about the "unless" clause.  What's the "unless" clause?  It's the "no individual should be prosecuted for exercising the right to freedom of opinion and expression" .... unless (INSERT reason here).

The following is a non-exhaustive list of possible reasons, in no particular order: 

No individual should be prosecuted for exercising the right to freedom of opinion and expression ....

---- unless your unofficial mockery written during off hours require cause your State Department bosses to take Xanax.

---- unless your blog tell stories about the leadership and management misimpressions of your boss.

---- unless your blog tell stories about the impression management strategy of your bosses ailing with promotiontitis.

---- unless you write about funny things reported in the media that talks about odd strange foreign policy misadventures and expense.

---- unless you write about a less than perfect life and private pains in your foreign adventures because didn't you know that a shrink is always better than a blog?

--- unless you write about countries with diplomatic relations with the United States.

Not sure the "unless" clause covers Bhutan and Taiwan, but it should should cover Cuba, Iran and North Korea. But before you make fun of Kim Jong Il's hairdo, be sure to check with the North Korea desk for blanket permission to blog or tweet about the Korean Peninsula's hair model of the century.

More later ...

(This entry was originally posted on 8/17/2011; updated with "unless" clause)

State Department Seeks Advisors for South Sudan Armed Forces Transformation

Coat of arms of Southern SudanImage via WikipediaThe State Department has recently posted a solicitation for a contractor to "Enhance capacity of the South Sudan Ministry of Defense by providing a team of advisors, facilitating planning conferences, and procuring equipment." The place of performance is Juba, South Sudan. The period of performance for the resulting contract will be "a base period of 12 months plus three (3) twelve (12) month option periods."

Below are more details excerpted from the Statement of Work posted at

Office of the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan and Bureau of African Affairs
South Sudan Armed Forces Transformation
Ministry Advisory and Training Team (MATT)
Statement of Work

During the last eight years, Sudan has been the highest-priority country in sub-Saharan Africa, and one of the highest U.S. priorities worldwide. The United States Government played a major role in brokering the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended the twenty-year civil war between the government in Khartoum (Government of Sudan) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), a southern Sudanese rebel movement. During his June 2005 visit to the United States, the SPLM Chairman John Garang appealed to administration and Congress for support to transform his guerrilla forces into a modern military.  Among other initiatives, the support outlined in this request for proposal addresses this appeal.

In January 2011, as stipulated in the CPA, citizens of Southern Sudan voted in a referendum for independence  from or unity with the North.  The overwhelming majority chose independence; on 9 July 2011, the South became the Republic of South Sudan (RoSS).  The Office of the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan (USSES), with the Bureau of African Affairs (AF) at the U.S. Department of State, plans to continue assisting in the transformation of the South Sudan Armed Forces (SSAF) from a largely guerrilla force to a military force operating under the RoSS’ Ministry of Defense (MoD).

The purpose of this Statement of Work (SoW) is to outline the requirements for advisors embedded in the South Sudan Minstry of Defense (MoD).  The advisors will be managed by the Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs, Office of the U.S. Special Envoy to Sudan, and the U.S. Embassy in Juba. The purpose of the advisors is to provide support to the Minstry in the areas of policy planning, human resources, financial management, acquisition and procurement, military production, inspections, public affairs, and veterans affairs, or other functions as necessary, to enhance the Ministry’s ability to effectively manage the transformation of the South Sudan Armed Forces from a largely guerrilla force to a regular military operating under the MoD as the civilian authority within the RoSS.  As part of this assistance, the U.S. Department of State will support the Management Advisory and Training Team (MATT) in Juba, South Sudan to provide training and mentorship to MoD management staff and leadership.  The MATT will support the Ministry leadership, but will not be directly involved in the day to day decision making activities of the MoD.  Advisors will assist MoD senior management and staff at all levels, in their role as mentors and trainers, to perform key functions at appropriate standards.

The USG will work with Ministry of Defense to identify counterparts for each of the advisors listed in this Statement of Work. Contractors will report to the Minister or their ministry counterparts, but might also work with other South Sudan civilian agencies as required.

The overarching purpose of this initiative is to support the MoD with advisors in nine areas; 1) Defense Policy,  2) Human Resources (2); 3) Military Production; 4) Civil-Military and Public Affairs; 5) Inspections; 6) Finance and Budget; 7) Acquisition, Procurement and Logistics, and 8) Veterans Affairs. [Note that support to Human Resources will include two positions; one to focus on personnel readiness and management, and the second to focus on force planning and resource allocation.] To that end, this program will focus on enhancing the overall effectiveness of the MoD staff and leadership by addressing fundamental weaknesses in existing MoD staff procedures and planning efforts, and strengthening the MoD staff and leadership to effectively manage the transitioning guerilla force into a regular military through supporting effective staff policies and procedures.
Not only has the State Department got itself a new private army in Iraq, we now will also be training and mentoring the Ministry of Defense of the world's newest country.

I'm sure we're all relieved to learn about this. 


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

US Mission at the UN: Disparity is a fact of USUN life

The OIG recently reviewed the US Mission at the United Nations. Below is a quick snapshot of work there:

The nature of the work at USUN and its multiple employment categories mean that there will never be parity in pay, work hours, or benefits among all the members of staff in any of these sections. That disparity is a fact of USUN life. The rewards for these staff members come with the work itself and the recognition that they get from the executive office or their supervisors for jobs well done. During the 4-week inspection, the OIG team witnessed several occasions where UN negotiations dragged on until 3:30 or even 5:30 in the morning. USUN staff members were not only involved in discussions until the very end, but they were back at work an hour before the official work day started to report on overnight developments and prepare for the next round. One officer followed this routine 3 days in a row but never flagged. Like professionals on Wall Street, some of the USUN staff members will burn out and move on to jobs with more rational work hours after a few years, but many will stay, testing their stamina year after year. Those whose business it is to monitor the use of U.S. Government resources may not realize the benefits they derive from the unremunerated labor of the USUN policy and negotiating staff. However, the mission would not have registered the recent successes it has achieved in the multilateral arena or advanced American interests so well without it.
Read in full here (pdf),

Monday, August 15, 2011

US ConGen Chennai: "Dirty and Dark" Tamil Remark Lands US Diplomat in Very Hot Water

The Times of India recently reported that a US diplomat was caught in a very public row over her insensitive and thoughtless remark about Tamils during a speech at a local university in Chennai, India. 

"I was on a 24-hour train trip from Delhi to Orissa. But after 72 hours, the train still did not reach the destination... and my skin became dirty and dark like the Tamilians," US vice-consul Maureen Chao said in a speech at the SRM University on Friday. Chao also said, "Some 20 years ago, I was a student and had an opportunity to do a semester abroad. I chose India, fascinated by its culture and religion. I was amazed at the graciousness of the people."

Oh dear. I wish she did a rehearsal before she went to that talk. She could have started with "Some years ago ....." and we won't be talking about this today.

There is seldom a Take 2 in diplomatic life. 

The "dark and dirty" remark was first reported on Friday, August 12.  On Saturday, August 13, the U.S. Consulate General in Chennai issued its quick reaction statement:
Yesterday at a Study Abroad Orientation Program at SRM University, Vice Consul Maureen Chao gave a speech describing positive memories from her own study abroad experiences in India 23 years ago. During the speech Ms. Chao made an inappropriate comment. Ms. Chao deeply regrets if her unfortunate remarks offended anyone, as that was certainly not her intent.

As Secretary Clinton recently noted, the U.S.-India partnership is based on our shared values of democracy, liberty, and respect for religious and cultural diversity. The U.S. Consulate in Chennai and the U.S. Mission in India are committed to upholding these shared values.

I should note that this incident has overshadowed the arrival of the new Consul General Jennifer McIntyre who assumed her duties in Chennai on August 3, 2011. I expect that the new CG will make the rounds of introducing herself to the officials in her consular district.  But instead of more substantial conversations and building new relationships, she now has to start her tour with a round of apologies.

Also on August 13, Reddiff carried the news that the Tamil Nadu government on Saturday condemned the 'dark and dirty' remark, alleging that it smacked of racism and was an affront to all Tamilians.

On August 14, the Times of India reported that PMK founder S Ramadoss demanded that the Union government expel the US diplomat for her controversial comments on Tamils.
"Its highly condemnable. While Tamils have been excelling in many fields, including Information Technology and surprise many including Americans, a US official saying this cannot be tolerated," Ramadoss said in a statement.

"People like her should not be allowed to stay in Tamil Nadu. The ministry of foreign affairs should call her in person to express its opposition and expel her immediately from the country," he said.

According to ConGen Chennai's website, Maureen Chao is a Vice Consul with the U.S. Consulate General Chennai. She earned a Bachelor degree in International Studies, a Master degree in Education, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration. She was a Fulbright Fellow in Vietnam, conducting research in education. Prior to joining the State Department she worked with international education programs for fifteen years, as well as in the social services field with foster children, refugees and immigrants and low-income/homeless populations.

Presumably, she is on her first tour assignment in Chennai.

U.S. diplomats are on 24/7, 365 days a year.  Even the lowest ranked, most junior  U.S. diplomat is a representative of the United States Government.The press, and host country nationals in fact, will have high expectations even on the newest vice-consul.  If there is a lesson to this, it is that no matter how junior a diplomat the individual might be, what he/she says and does reflect on the United States. The press, local or otherwise, will not make allowances that this is a diplomat's first assignment or whether or not he/she had lessons in public affairs and public diplomacy. 

In a very competitive service, entry level officers often try to set themselves apart from the pack. Most volunteer for additional assignments, others use their portfolio assignments to stand out; in a pack of highly educated, talented newbies, they mostly want to be memorable to their bosses. But it can sometimes backfire.

In the last several years, there has also been a pushed for new officers to be out there. Even "newbies" on their first tours in consular sections are being asked to conduct consular public diplomacy outreach with radio, television and the print media.  The State Department culture often presumes that a Foreign Service Officer, a generalist can do just about anything, whether they are trained for it or not.  Some officers are indeed talented in dealing with the general public and the media; but others are not so.

In another life -- in at least one consular section, I have seen a Consul General tasked entry level officers with extremely limited press training to go out and deal with the media in the section's public outreach. And it was not optional. The result was a group of new officers who desperately wanted to excel on something they were set to fail. For those naturally talented or PD-coned, the task was manageable; if you have the knack for it, you can get by by the skin of your teeth. For those who are non-PD coned, or those with no substantial experience dealing with foreign publics--some not always friendly to the United States, it was often like amateur hour.  Why would a senior manager do something like this? Rumor had it that the Consul General was trying to impress somebody from his/her home bureau with an "innovative" program for new officers which carry no training cost. It was a shitty program but the junior officers were too afraid to complain or demand appropriate training.

I am not saying this was the case with Ms. Chao.  But entry level officers who are on overseas assignment for the first time ought not deal with the foreign public/media without specific guidance/training from post's Public Affairs Officer. Some sections where bosses are not too addled with the illness known as promotiontitis, the officers get to do murder boards before they show up for public engagements. Despite what the name implies, a murder board does not involve actual murder and gets its origin from the U.S. Army's extensive training system; it simulates the actual presentation where the audience (usually colleagues) engaged in a role play including asking difficult and gotcha questions that the target group is likely to ask.  It is a practice session that not only allows newbies to make mistakes in a learning environment; if handled effectively with appropriate feedback, it also help the new officers improve their persuasion, presentation and public speaking skills.

More importantly, it minimizes very public undiplomatic gaffes. See link below on murder boards.

On Friday, there were about three articles on this incident. By late Sunday there were over a hundred articles on the same incident. Ms. Chao, as far as I can tell, may be the only entry level diplomat in memory to appear in the same news montage as former President Richard Nixon, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, current Vice President Joe Biden and SC Gov Nikki Haley. See below a video by NewsX, a 24-hour rolling news television show rated as one of India's most watched English news channel.

Related item:
The Murder Board: The Ultimate Practice Presentation | by Larry Tracy (PDF)