Reuters September 12, 2012
BENGHAZI, Libya – The U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other embassy staff (Shaun Smith) were killed in a rocket attack on their car, a Libyan official said, as they were rushed from a consular building stormed by militants denouncing a U.S.-made film insulting the Prophet Mohammad.
Gunmen had attacked and burned the U.S. consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi, a center of last year’s uprising against Muammar Gaddafi, late on Tuesday evening, killing one U.S. consular official. The building was evacuated.
The Libyan official said the ambassador, Christopher Stevens, was being driven from the consulate building to a safer location when gunmen opened fire.
“The American ambassador and three staff members were killed when gunmen fired rockets at them,” the official in Benghazi told Reuters.
There was no immediate comment from the State Department in Washington. U.S. ambassadors in such volatile countries are accompanied by tight security, usually travelling in well-protected convoys. Security officials will be considering whether the two attacks were coordinated
AFP May 13, 2012
BAGHDAD — The US embassy in Baghdad insisted on Sunday it had no plans to shut down a multi-billion-dollar police training programme that it said was a “vital part” of its enormous civilian mission here.
Responding to a New York Times report that the US may phase the programme out entirely, the embassy did not comment on the newspaper’s claims it would reduce the number of police advisers to just 50 or directly address charges it spent more than $100 million on a facility that it will no longer use.
“Despite a New York Times report to the contrary, the US Embassy in Baghdad and the Department of State have no plans to shut down the Police Development Programme in Iraq that began in October 2011,” an embassy statement said.
It said it would return a Baghdad Police College annex to Iraqi authorities, thereby relocating US police advisers to the heavily-fortified embassy and generating “considerable cost savings”.
“The Police Development Programme is a vital part of the US-Iraqi relationship and an effective means of standing by our Iraqi friends as they protect their sovereignty and democratic institutions from internal and external threats,” embassy spokesman Michael McClellan said in the statement.
Citing unnamed State Department officials, the New York Times reported on Sunday that new restructuring plans called for the number of police advisers to be reduced to just 50, from what was originally envisioned as a cadre of 350.
It also said that the embassy spent more than $100 million on upgrades to the Baghdad Police College, but that the building was “recently abandoned, unfinished”.
The embassy did not immediately confirm the amount of money spent on the police college, and a spokesman said that “all staffing levels are evaluated periodically in coordination with the” Iraqi government.
Washington Post May 6, 2012
After signing a 10-year lease and spending more than $80 million on a site envisioned as the United States’ diplomatic hub in northern Afghanistan, American officials say they have abandoned their plans, deeming the location for the proposed compound too dangerous.
Eager to raise an American flag and open a consulate in a bustling downtown district of the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif, officials in 2009 sought waivers to stringent State Department building rules and overlooked significant security problems at the site, documents show. The problems included relying on local building techniques that made the compound vulnerable to a car bombing, according to an assessment by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul that was obtained by The Washington Post.
Emergency Message for US Citizens by US Embassy in Abuja
All Africa April 18, 2012
Following the emergency message issued by the U.S. Mission in Nigeria over alleged planned attacks by the Boko Haram, security agencies have beefed up security in certain parts of Abuja.
The statement which was posted on the embassy’s website said the attacks are to be carried out in Abuja and especially hotels frequented by foreigners.
The embassy advised citizens of the United States resident or visiting Abuja to exercise additional caution and said the Nigerian government is already aware of the threat and is taking additional steps to forestall them.
Particularly it advised its citizens to maintain alertness in and around Abuja, near Nigerian government facilities, diplomatic missions, large gathering places, hotels, markets and malls, and places of worship.
Daily Trust observed that increased security measures are being been put in place in certain parts of the Capital territory.
Apart from the police road blocks and check points along major roads into the federal capital territory, security agents can be seen standing guard at public buildings and major hotels were foreigners frequent in the city.
At the four-towered NNPC head office in Abuja, the road directly in front of the building complex has been blocked and cars are thoroughly checked before being admitted within the building.
CBS News September 29, 2009
CBS News first reported this month on the hazing and humiliating of local employees and other serious breaches of ethics and policy by civilian security guards during wild parties at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Turns out, the State Department was warned that things weren’t right at the embassy, but nothing was done. Now there are troubling questions for the man once in charge of investigating those problems, reports CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson.
As inspector general for the State Department, Howard Krongard was supposed to be an independent watchdog.
It was his job to investigate the very type of misconduct alleged at the U.S. embassy in Kabul: forced sexual hazing of guards, contract fraud and waste of tax dollars.
CBS News has learned that serious allegations about the embassy reached Krongard’s office two years ago – where they apparently vanished into thin air.
How that could’ve happened is even harder to explain when you consider who made the complaint: Sen. Joe Lieberman, head of the Homeland Security Committee. His staffers say they notified Krongard’s office about security and fraud allegations made by high-level whistleblowers from inside ArmorGroup, the company that provides embassy security.
Asked if he remembers that, Krongard said, “No. I Have no knowledge of that whatsoever.”
But CBS News has learned Krongard had a special and controversial link to the company he should have been policing. His brother Buzzy, former executive director of the CIA, was on ArmorGroup’s board of directors.
Dan Norse The Washington Post February 19, 2012
The Iraqi government has taken full control of the former heart of the American occupation. It decides who gets past the 17-foot-tall concrete blast walls encircling the zone
On the inside, Iraqi police and military forces have raided the offices of private security companies, prompting the firms and commercial companies that rely on them to relocate.
“They have hit a point where it’s virtually impossible to stay,” said Doug Brooks, president of the International Stability Operations Association, a trade group that represents foreign firms and nonprofit organizations in Iraq.
The result: The International Zone has become the Iraqi Zone, and an increasingly isolated one at that
The Washington Times February 6, 2012
The State Department cited the recent surge in violence for its decision.
The government of President Bashar Assad did not respond “adequately” to security concerns raised by the U.S. and other diplomatic missions, it added
State Department personnel in Iraq may be in danger as transition plans leave gaps in security and medical care
Peter Van Buren at HuffPost November 22, 2011
Please see Peter Van Buren’s blog We Meant Well
The State Department can often times be so inward looking that it fixes the facts based on the policy need, making reality fit the vision whether that naughty reality wants to or not. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it can be tragic.
When I arrived at my second Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Iraq, we were told to call the area we worked in the “Sunni Triangle of Death.” The meme was “Look at us bad boys, reconstructing the nasty Sunni Triangle of Death. It proves State is not a sissy.” About six months later we were told to stop calling the place the “Sunni Triangle of Death,” because since we had been working for half a year, we needed to show some progress. “Triangle of Death” did not signify progress so the Embassy banned the term to fit the policy meme, even though nothing had really changed. No real harm done, I guess.
Around election time, the initial plan was for PRT staffers to observe the March 2010 voting up close, mostly so the Embassy could claim the election was legitimate based on the happy-talk reports we understood we were to file. That was part of the warp, but the real kicker was that to show our faith in Iraqi security, we were told we were not to wear body armor at the polling stations. The Embassy felt that photos of us all geared up, as we believed we needed to be based on local security conditions, would not play well with their PR campaign that all was well. There was a lot of back channel grumbling, and a few threats to refuse to observe, and the Embassy quietly just changed plans and canceled most of the rural observations. Again, narrowly, no real harm done.
Now, as the State Department rushes to replace all of the military support it needs to exist in still-dangerous Iraq without the Army, there are fears that the warping of reality may indeed endanger lives in Baghdad
Kathryn Brown at Bloomberg View October 24, 2011
President Obama confirmed on Oct. 21 that the remaining 39,000 U.S. troops will leave Iraq at the year’s end. The war may be ending, but the size of the U.S. embassy in Iraq will double, from approximately 8,000 to 16,000 people.
This is uncharted territory for the State Department; it has never managed a mission this size before. The Obama administration is requesting $3.2 billion to cover the transition from civilian to military control, in addition to a core operational budget of $496 million. The embassy in Baghdad is a sprawling fortress, the largest the U.S. has ever built. Three provincial posts in Basrah, Erbil and Kirkuk will extend the U.S.’s diplomatic reach into northern and southern Iraq.
But roughly ten percent of this team will actually include diplomats. In addition to their traditional work, the State Department will assume over 300 activities that the U.S. military routinely performs, including air transport, force protection, medical aid and environmental cleanup.
They will require an extraordinary amount of contractor support. Inside the embassy will be the newly established Office of Security Cooperation that will be responsible for Pentagon assistance programs to the Iraqi security forces; it will include more than 900 civilians and uniformed military personnel, in addition to 3,500 contractors. A “general life support” team of about 4,500 employees will also cook, clean and run the embassy facilities
And 5,000 security contract employees will protect the roughly 1,700 American diplomats as they attempt to pursue U.S. policy and development goals in an immensely complex country where two explosions in a Shiite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad killed 17 civilians on Oct. 13, Turkish troops are fighting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in the north, and an eager Iran watches from the east.
All of this adds up to a new experiment in U.S. statecraft. Whether this civilian-run operation is too bloated, on target or under-resourced remains to be seen — but its successes and failures will help steer U.S. post-conflict strategies for decades to come.
AP Newsbreak October 15, 2011
By LARA JAKES, Associated Press – 1 hour ago
BAGHDAD (AP) — The U.S. is abandoning plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past
a year-end withdrawal deadline, The Associated Press has learned. The decision
to pull out fully by January will effectively end more than eight years of U.S.
involvement in the Iraq war, despite ongoing concerns about its security forces
and the potential for instability.
The decision ends months of hand-wringing by U.S. officials over whether to
stick to a Dec. 31 withdrawal deadline that was set in 2008 or negotiate a new
security agreement to ensure that gains made and more than 4,400 American
military lives lost since March 2003 do not go to waste.
In recent months, Washington has been discussing with Iraqi leaders the
possibility of several thousand American troops remaining to continue training
Iraqi security forces.
But a senior Obama administration official in Washington confirmed Saturday
that all American troops will leave Iraq except for about 160 active-duty
soldiers attached to the U.S. Embassy.
A senior U.S. military official confirmed the departure and said the
withdrawal could allow future but limited U.S. military training missions in
Iraq if requested.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of
CNN September 13, 2011
[Update 8:29 a.m. ET
The U.S. Embassy issued an emergency message about the series of attacks across Kabul on Tuesday, saying “the situation is uncertain and ongoing. There are media reports that many roads are closed in Kabul.” It said appointments for visas or U.S. citizen services have been canceled for now and it said Americans in Afghanistan should monitor the websites of the embassy and the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs for the latest information.
“We urge U.S. citizens to shelter in place, avoid unnecessary movement, and to avoid the neighborhood around the U.S. Embassy: Wazir Akbar Khan, Microrayon, and Massoud Circle,” it said.
“The Embassy also urges U.S. citizens to remain vigilant and avoid areas where Westerners congregate. Do not discuss travel plans or other personal matters with strangers, or in public. Be alert and aware of your surroundings, and always travel with mobile phones or appropriate communication equipment.”
American civilians working for the U.S. government and Embassy are targeted by militants and hounded by Iraqi police.
The raids are believed to be under the supervision of Maliki’s son, Ahmed, according to Iraqi and Western sources, as Iraqi officials seek to regain control of the Green Zone.
He was killed Thursday outside the gates of the university when a powerful bomb commonly used by Shiite Muslim militias detonated.
The attack highlighted the precarious position of contractors for the U.S. government and Embassy as the American military prepares to leave the country.
Militia groups, some with ties to the Iraqi government, are intent on hitting U.S. diplomats, soldiers and contractors employed by the embassy. And it is no longer clear how far Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and his security forces can go in reining the groups.
Civilian contractors working on projects to help build the country’s democracy are also coming under intense pressure from the Iraqi police and army. In the last month, there have been at least four raids by the army and police on USAID contractors’ compounds in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone.
The deputy head of a USAID program was detained for about a week by the Iraqi security forces; he was released Thursday.
In part, the harsh treatment now is baggage from eight years when Americans had virtual immunity from Iraqi rules, and Iraqi officials came to resent civilian and security contractors who were seldom, if ever, held accountable.
Mathew Nasuti at Kabul Press.org Monday June 20, 2011
The unofficial message from the West to victims of oppression is:
“We will liberate you as long as your women agree to service our officials and contractors.”
That is a sad reality of both NATO and United Nations peacekeeping missions.
The U.S. State Department’s “Trafficking in Persons Report 2010″ highlights the continuing growth of brothels in Kabul following the U.S. invasion in 2001. Many of the victims are poor Afghan women. A press release issued on January 13, 2011, by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul blamed the scandal on lax enforcement against traffickers by the Afghan Government, with no recommendation that the “johns” or clients be prosecuted (because many of them appear to be NATO and U.N. officials and their contractors). The most that the U.S. Embassy would meekly say is that:
“Some international security contractors may be involved in the sex trafficking of these women.”(it is interesting how ineffective U.S. intelligence agencies seem to be at determining brothel ownership in Kabul, despite the importance of the issue due to the use of these facilities by NATO officials)
This issue is not new. The British newspaper “The Sun” ran a story on April 7, 2008 entitled:
“NATO Men Romp in Afghan Brothels”
Sun Defense Editor Tom Newton Dunn detailed how NATO troops were observed drinking contraband alcohol and heading off to rooms with prostitutes. It quoted a NATO official as stating that one out of every five NATO civilians in Afghanistan frequent these brothels. The report quoted Afghan Member of Parliament Shukria Barakzai as stating that if this conduct continues: “They will undermine their reason for being here.”
The Iraqi government has expelled six US congressmen from the country. The decision was so shocking to the US embassy in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, that only 24 hours later the US embassy declared that the congressmen had made personal statements
Press TV June 14, 2011
What raised the Iraqis’ anger was a request by these congressmen that Iraq pays a portion — and even up to a half — of the expense of the US occupation of this country. The US delegation of congressmen had also requested a visit to Camp Ashraf, whish was also opposed by Iraqi authorities.
This decision of the Iraqis was welcomed by various factions within the Middle Eastern country to a point where even Ayad Alawi’s faction, which enjoys warm ties with Saudi Arabia and the US, wasn’t able to disagree with it.
The US did not enter Iraq at the invitation of executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein for the Americans to want to ask for compensation from the next Iraqi government.
Furthermore, US troops were never welcomed as ‘freedom forces’ by the Iraqi people.
The murders that US troops have committed in Iraqi prisons or on the streets of various Iraqi cities have not left a positive impression of the US military on Iraqi citizens. Despite the fact that the US forces ousted Saddam, Iraqi citizens never believed that these efforts were aimed at freeing them from dictatorship and not aimed at protecting US interests.
The monthly cost of maintaining US troops in Iraq was USD 4.4 billion in 2003 and USD 12 billion in 2008. So far the US has spent nearly USD 1.8 trillion in Iraq in the form of military hardware and personnel. Some analysts from within the US have even put this figure much higher than the official amount.
In September 2010, the Iraqi government agreed to pay USD 400 million in damages to the US for damages incurred during Saddam Hussein’s regime. In its 60th assembly last May, the Iraqi parliament agreed to pay this amount. The decision was met by widespread protests by the people and various political groups.
The US government has never officially asked Iraq to share the cost of the war but it tries to compensate itself by exclusively granting military and civil reconstruction projects to US companies.
More security personnel, more intensive information gathering, new protocols – a slew of measures Hungarian police and private contractors guarding embassies in Hungary are taking in order to protect diplomatic objects in Budapest.
Budapest Business Journal May 12, 2011
All is quiet around the UK Embassy on the corner of Budapest’s Erzsébet tér. Harmincad utca, the street on which the embassy’s entrance is, has been closed off from car traffic and pedestrian traffic usually treads on the other side of the street, as well. It is very similar to what you would have seen before Osama bin Laden’s death. But in fact, it is invisibly different. Osama has died and the world is expecting retribution, at least a symbolic one. And due to the UK’s past role in combating terrorists, the British Embassy in Budapest could, according to Hungarian officials, be one of the embassies under threat.
It is not the only one where security has been tightened. According to the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, the US and “its closest allies and partners in past military operations” are the most likely to be threatened in any terrorist retribution following the killing of the most wanted terrorist since September 11, 2001. This means that Israel’s, Germany’s and France’s embassies are now also under more intensive police protection in Budapest, as well as the US’s, of course.
“We are constantly reviewing the situation and we are doing everything to enable us to react well. Some things we are doing can be seen, but securing these premises also includes steps that are hid from the eyes of the public,” says Eszter Pataki, head of the ministry’s press department. “If we deem it necessary, we detail more personnel to protect the embassies,” she added.
In practice, a stronger threat level has brought little change to the life of the embassies. “We are monitoring the situation and whenever we become aware of a threat, we have a responsibility to issue a warning,” Bradley A. Hurst press attaché of the United States Embassy to Hungary told the Budapest Business Journal. The US has issued a warning to its citizens, especially those residing in countries featured on the Department of State’s travel warning list, to exercise additional caution and if possible, stay at home for a while. The administration also ordered strengthening the protection of diplomatic assets abroad.
In many cases, more threat makes more work for the private contractors in charge of protecting diplomatic institutions. The protection of diplomatic institutions is overseen by the law enforcement of the host nation, as regulated by the Vienna Convention of 1961 on a basis of mutuality, but the diplomacies can and often do hire companies like In-Kal Security to provide additional protection.
As Dr István Bökönyi, strategic director at In-Kal told the BBJ, the company is one of the biggest in its field in Hungary and is currently in charge of protecting four different diplomatic assets belonging to nations that are high on the terror-threat list. In-Kal currently has tens of security professionals on such assignments, Bökönyi said without revealing the actual number. Some of the assignments involve armed service performed by specially trained professionals.
Contractors overseeing security assignments are regularly keeping track of global events and are ready to respond, Bökönyi, a retired three-star general with a career in law enforcement and counter-terrorism said. “When there is a threat, our guards on duty are fully briefed of the situation and know what to do,” he added