Archive for the ‘diplomats’ Category

New Secretary Faces Fixing Under-Resourced State Department

November 15, 2008
On news that president-elect Barack Obama is considering Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of state, Fox News brought out Democratic strategist Bob Bechel this morning who asked, “What does Hillary really want to do?  Get more post offices for the finger lakes region of New York or, as Secretary of state, visit European capitols and China?” In my opinion, this is one of the key problems with the State Department.  The Secretary of State often enjoys being “diplomat and traveler in chief” but often ignores his or her role as a key department head of the U.S. government charged with actually managing the Department of State.  During Condoleezza Rice’s time this came to a head when several of State’s diplomats refused to go to assignments in “hot spots” like Iraq.  These “public servants” were mostly coddled and cajoled while U.S. military volunteers, who take the same oath of service as State’s employees, face discipline when they refuse orders or assignments.  The point is that the next Secretary of State will have to deal with Russia, Iran, Iraq, China, Pakistan the Middle East and a host of other ‘hot spots.”  He or she will have to also get and keep the State Department at Foggy Bottom in line, on track, and in order — or it will become foggier still….

 
Seal of the United States Department of State

 

By Michael Abramowitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 15, 2008; Page A04

The next secretary of state not only will face the challenge of repairing the nation’s tattered image and grappling with an array of global crises and hot spots, but also must solve a problem closer to home: reforming an under-resourced State Department to handle its growing duties, such as rebuilding war-torn societies, coping with worldwide pandemics and working with other countries to curb global warming.

“In the last eight years, we have significantly reinvented and transformed every national security agency except the Department of State,” said Philip D. Zelikow, who served as counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. “Our core Foreign Service officers and aid officers are not large enough to play the role that’s been cast for them, nor do we have the training establishment to prepare them for their roles.”

Speculation swirled yesterday that President-elect Barack Obama might be ready to offer the secretary of state post to an instantly recognizable star, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.). But other contenders apparently remain in the mix, including Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee; New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; and retiring GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.). And after watching a administration whose tenure was marked by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the world appears ready for the nation’s new top diplomat — whomever it may be — to lead the reinvigorated diplomacy Obama has pledged to deliver.

“The next president and the next secretary come into office at a time when our economy is in recession, our military is tied down and our reputation is tarnished,” said Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Diplomatic tools are arguably the one set of instruments that are available. It’s a natural moment for American diplomacy.”

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/14/AR2008111403505.html

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Hillary Clinton For Secretary of State?

November 14, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is among the candidates that President-elect Barack Obama is considering for secretary of state, according to two Democratic officials in close contact with the Obama transition team.

By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer

Clinton, the former first lady who pushed Obama hard for the Democratic presidential nomination, was rumored to be a contender for the job last week, but the talk died down as party activists questioned whether she was best-suited to be the nation’s top diplomat in an Obama administration.

In this Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008 file photo, Sen. Hillary Rodham ...
In this Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008 file photo, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton D-NY addresses the press after she voted in Chappaqua, NY. Clinton is among the candidates that President-elect Barack Obama is considering for secretary of state, according to two Democratic officials in close contact with the Obama transition team.(AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

The talk resumed in Washington and elsewhere Thursday, a day after Obama named several former aides to President Bill Clinton to help run his transition effort.

The two Democratic officials who spoke Thursday did so on the condition of anonymity to avoid angering Obama and his staff. Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines referred questions to the Obama transition team, which said it had no comment.

Other people frequently mentioned for the State Department job are Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and New Mexico‘s Democratic governor, Bill Richardson.

Obama’s Impact: Global Diplomatic Good Will Rising

November 14, 2008

Buoyed by a groundswell of global good feeling after the election of Barack Obama, current and former U.S. diplomats see a new chance to advance American interests if the next president keeps his promises to devote more resources to the diplomatic corps and foreign aid.

By Nicholas Kralev  
The Washington Times

In e-mails to The Washington Times, diplomats from four continents said good will toward the United States has increased dramatically since Mr. Obama’s election and is already making a difference in their daily work.

John K. Naland, president of the American Foreign Service Association, the diplomats’ union, said it was crucial to bolster the resources devoted to diplomacy to sustain the positive new feelings.

“The expectation of the Foreign Service is that President-elect Obama will follow through on his campaign pledges by asking Congress for additional funding for diplomacy and development assistance,” Mr. Naland said. “Those funds are needed because, without adequate numbers of properly resourced and well-trained diplomats and development professionals, no amount of personal diplomacy by the president, vice president or secretary of state will single-handedly restore our nation’s role as the world’s leader in global affairs.”

The Bush administration, initially bolstered by foreign support after Sept. 11, lost overseas backing after it invaded Iraq. The U.S. image also has suffered from the revelations of abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and because of security measures that have made it difficult for foreigners to visit the United States.

During the campaign, Mr. Obama made a number of promises to boost diplomacy.

In March, he said he would “invest in our civilian capacity to operate alongside our troops in post-conflict zones and on humanitarian and stabilization missions. Instead of shuttering consulates in tough corners of the world, it’s time to grow our Foreign Service and to expand [the U.S. Agency for International Development].”

Mr. Naland said the U.S. “foreign affairs agencies are hobbled by a human-capital crisis.” He cited a report last month by the American Academy of Diplomacy – a body including all living former secretaries of state – that recommended that staffing be increased by 43 percent at the State Department and by 62 percent at USAID.

 President-elect Barack Obama speaks to world leaders from Chicago on Nov. 6. U.S. diplomats from four continents told The Washington Times that good will toward the U.S. has already increased. (Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)

The current shortages make it difficult for diplomats to take time off for training, he said. At the same time, more training is necessary given the expanded duties assigned to diplomats in recent years, from nation-building to lobbying for free trade.

“Try something completely new and different, learn a complicated language in 15 minutes, parachute in and instantly hit the ground running, get to know everyone immediately, get everyone to do everything perfectly,” was how one Foreign Service officer in Iraq described the expectations for U.S. diplomats today.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/nov/
14/diplomats-see-boon-of-good-will-since-obama-win/

Tibet and the Ghosts of Tiananmen

March 18, 2008

By Bill Powell
Beijing
TIME Magazine

It is still nearly five months before the Olympic torch is to be lit in Beijing, officially starting the 29th summer Olympics. But, diplomats in the Chinese capital believe that a high level game of chicken has already begun, one that has now turned deadly – first, in Lhasa, the capital of what China calls the Tibet Autonomous Region, and now elsewhere, according to Tibetan exiles and human rights groups.

A demonstrator rallies against China's deadly crackdown ...
A demonstrator rallies against China’s deadly crackdown on pro-independence protesters in Tibet. The United States said Monday it would increase radio broadcasts to Tibet as China clamped down on media coverage of the bloody protests in the Himalayan territory.(AFP/Filippo Monteforte)

Yesterday, in China’s Sichuan province, at least eight bodies were brought to a Buddhist monastery in Aba prefecture, allegedly shot dead by Chinese riot control police, according to an eyewitness account quoted by Radio Free Asia. The escalating confrontation in and around Tibet is a nightmare for China’s top leadership, but one, some diplomats believe, that could not have taken anyone in the central government completely by surprise. It pits the leadership in Beijing against its domestic opponents – who include not only Tibetan dissidents, but also separatist groups in the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang, as well as human rights and political activists throughout the country.

Each side understood that the months leading up to the Games would be “extremely sensitive,” as one diplomat put it. The government knew “from day one,” another diplomat told TIME, that “a successful bid for the games would bring an unprecedented – and in some cases very harsh – spotlight” on China and how it is governed. On the other side, everyone from human rights activists to independence seeking dissidents in Tibet and Xinjiang – “splittists” in the Chinese vernacular – knew they would have an opportunity to push their agendas while the world was watching. “Thought the specific trigger for this in Tibet is still unclear, that it intensified so quickly is probably not just an accident,” the senior diplomat says.

According to this view, it was never hard to imagine a scenario in which some group – and maybe several – would push things, try “to probe and see whether they could test limits.” The critical issue, now front and center, diplomats say, is just how far angry Tibetan activists will push – and how harshly the Chinese government will push back.

How extensive…

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/time/tibetandtheghost
softiananmen;_ylt=AvtWVC
y0vqipwpCCEjboCsWs0NUE

Americans Bombed In Pakistan Violence

March 15, 2008

Message from Muhammad in Pakistan, March 16, 2008

Dear John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

Dear Sir,I hope you and your team will be alright.

At the moment there is complete choas in Pakistan as terrorists have been making last-ditch effort to assert their authority. Besides declaring government in Bajaur Agency tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan they have carried suicide blast in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan.

Reports gathered from various sources revealed blast at an Italian restaurant in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad on Saturday appears to have killed at least two people and wounded 15.

A foreign woman was one of the dead. A witness told newsmen the explosion occurred in a garden dining area at the rear of the Luna Caprese restaurant, which is frequented by expatriates, including diplomats, aid agency workers, and journalists.
Pakistani volunteers unload an injured victim of a bomb explosion ... 
Pakistani volunteers unload an injured victim of a bomb explosion from a police van at a local hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan Saturday, March 15, 2008. A bomb apparently killed at least two people and wounded nine others Saturday at an Italian restaurant popular with foreigners in Pakistan’s capital, police said.(AP Photo)

A police official said a blast hit a restaurant frequented by foreigners in the federal capital.

“There was an explosion inside the Luna Caprese Italian restaurant in the centre of the capital in Supermarket area,” police official Mohammad Ishtiaq told AFP. 

An AFP photographer at the scene said several of the injured who were stretchered out of the restaurant were foreigners. Witnesses also confirmed casualties.

“There are lots of injured people who have lost their limbs and legs, foreigners were inside. It’s a very bad situation. We don’t know what has happened,” an employee at the restaurant said.

Pakistan volunteers remove a foreigner injured victim at the ...
Pakistan volunteers remove a foreigner injured victim at the site of bomb explosion in Islamabad, Pakistan Saturday, March 15, 2008. Photo from the Associated Press.

“It was a very powerful blast. There is a lot of blood here, the walls are splattered with it. I see lots of human flesh,” the employee said.

According to another report, two persons including a US female citizen have died and over 15 others have injured in Islamabad blast on Saturday evening.

A US female citizen identified as Ellen, who was nurse at the US embassy was killed in the blast.Three US citizens and including two doctors and a Chinese citizen included among the citizens. The majority of injured is reportedly foreigners, the sources added.

The blast occurred in the backside of an Italian restaurant “Luna Caprese” near Super market, the sources said. Over 15 injured including foreigners have been shifted to hospitals.

Nature of the blast, which happened at about 850PM is yet to be ascertained.

Dear Sir, situation is very very critical.

Again thank you very much,

Yours sincerely,

Muhammad Khurshid
Khar, Bajaur Agency,Tribal Areas, Pakistan
Injured foreign nationals wait for ambulances at the site of ... 
Injured foreign nationals wait for ambulances at the site of bomb explosion in Islamabad, Pakistan Saturday, March 15, 2008. A bomb killed two people and wounded nine others Saturday at an Italian restaurant popular with foreigners in Pakistan’s capital, police said.(AP Photo)

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) — A bomb exploded in the back garden of an Italian restaurant popular with foreigners in Pakistan’s capital Saturday night, killing two people and wounding nine, police said.

It appeared to be the first attack targeting foreigners in a recent wave of violence.

Police have not determined whether the bomb was planted in the Luna Caprese’s back garden, or whether a suicide bomber attacked the restaurant, said police officer Irshad Abro. Two people were killed and nine hurt, he said.

Related (From March 16, 2008):
Pakistan: Restaurant Bombing Saturday Injured Several Americans

A Frail Economy Raises Pressure on Iran’s Rulers

February 3, 2008
The New York Times
February 3, 2008
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TEHRAN — In one of the coldest winters Iranians have experienced in recent memory, the government is failing to provide natural gas to tens of thousands of people across the country, leaving some for days or even weeks with no heat at all. Here in the capital, rolling blackouts every night for a month have left people without electricity, and heat, for hours at a time.The heating crisis in this oil-exporting nation is adding to Iranians’ increasing awareness of the contrast between their growing influence abroad and frailty at home, according to government officials, diplomats and political analysts interviewed here.

From fundamentalists to reformists, people here are talking more loudly about the need for a more pragmatic approach, one that tones down the anti-Western rhetoric….

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/03/world/middleeast/03iran.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin
A defiant President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that Tehran ...
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad  

US diplomats sometimes go off-message

February 1, 2008
By MATTHEW LEE, Associated Press Writer 

WASHINGTON – More and more, top government diplomats are straying from official Bush foreign policy as the administration wanes, leaving Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice struggling to keep them in check.

Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speaks ...
Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speaks to reporters at U.N. Headquarters in New York in this Sept. 27, 2007 file photo. More and more, top government diplomats are straying off official Bush foreign policy lines as the administration wanes, leaving Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice struggling to keep them in check.
(AP Photo/David Karp, File)

Twice just this week, Rice and her aides had to rebuke, disavow or otherwise try to explain away public words or actions by three top officials on delicate affairs ranging from North Korea and Iran to the violence in Kenya.

The trouble began on Jan. 17, when Jay Lefkowitz, the special U.S. envoy for human rights in North Korea, delivered….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080201/ap_on_go_
ca_st_pe/straying_diplomats;_ylt=Apy3
RLsxuRn0F5F2XdzACjKs0NUE

U.S. Diplomats: Free To Resign

January 10, 2008

James Morrison
The Washington Times
January 9, 2008
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Diplomats who refuse to serve in Iraq because they oppose U.S. policy or fear the duty is too dangerous can always resign from the Foreign Service, a State Department spokesman said yesterday in response to a new survey of U.S. diplomats.
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“When we signed up for these jobs, we signed up to support the policies of the American government,” said spokesman Sean McCormack. “If people have a problem with that, they know what they can do.”
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Forty-eight percent of 4,300 diplomats who responded to the survey by the American Foreign Service Association cited their opposition to U.S. policy in Iraq as a reason for refusing to serve in the country. The diplomats could list more than one reason for rejecting an assignment to Iraq. Sixty-one percent cited security concerns, while 64 percent listed “separation from family.”
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Sixty-eight percent of those who responded also opposed or strongly opposed being ordered to serve in Iraq. Only 32 percent favored or strongly favored the so-called “directed” assignments to Iraq.
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Earlier this year, the State Department feared it might have to draft diplomats to fill the jobs at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad but found enough volunteers to staff the mission.

Our thanks to Mike Benge for bringing this to our attention….

Related:
Halfhearted at State?

Diplomat Jack Croddy: You Don’t Want to Go To Iraq? Step Forward and Meet the Families of the Fallen and Those that Serve

State Department Memories from The Hanoi Hilton

Diplomats Who Refuse Assignments: “Hit The Road, You are Terminated with Prejudice and Without Pay”

The Abyss Between State and Defense

In Iraq: Reporters More Dedicated than the U.S. Foreign Service?

Diplomatic Infighting Hurts Terror War Effort

Rice Tells State Department Staff: You Took an Oath

A Diplomacy of neighborhoods

“Gaffe Machine” Karen Hughes Leaving State Department

Vietnam Seeking Greater International Role in 2008

January 2, 2008

The People’s Daily, China
January 2, 2008

Vietnam will play a more active role in world affairs this year with its external relation orientations centering on joining activities of the UN Security Council, and fostering economic diplomacy, local newspaper Vietnam News reported Wednesday.

Vietnamese Deputy Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem has set this year’s five tasks for the country’s diplomats.

First, continue to strengthen cooperation with other countries, bring into full play Vietnam’s role as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, take part more actively in multilateral forums, and enthusiastically join the settlement of global issues.

Second, step up external activities in the service of the local economy, deploy a government action plan and a party resolution for rapid, sustainable development of the economy, and accelerate multilateral cooperation in culture, education, science and technology.

Third, strive to complete the demarcation of boundaries and the planting of landmarks with neighboring countries before the end of 2008.

Fourth, keep on quickening the implementation of a party resolution and a government action plan on overseas Vietnamese, and create more favorable conditions for them to successfully integrate into their host countries, while contributing to the national construction and defense of their homeland.

Fifth, reinforce efforts to renew and increase the efficiency of external information and cultural services of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in collaboration with external political and economic tasks.

Source: Xinhua

Diplomats expelled from Afghanistan

December 27, 2007

By FISNIK ABRASHI, Associated Press Writer

KABUL, Afghanistan – The Afghan government expelled two senior European diplomats Thursday on accusations they held unauthorized meetings with Taliban militants, officials said.

Aleem Siddique, a spokesman for the United Nations Assistance ...
Aleem Siddique, a spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) speaks during an interview regarding the expulsion of two diplomats at the UNAMA’s office in Kabul, Afghanistan on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2007.
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The diplomats — one worked for the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the other was the acting head of the European Union mission — had traveled to Musa Qala, a former Taliban stronghold in southern Helmand province on Monday, where they met with local leaders, said Aleem Siddique, a spokesman for the U.N. mission.

After that trip, the two were accused of meeting with Taliban militants ….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20071227/ap_on_re_as/afghan_
diplomats_expelled;_ylt=
AmcsGLMrtcdAzXwmzhn_8Bys0NUE