Thursday, June 30, 2011







Eight years after the start of the illegal war and the installation of exiles into a puppet government in occupied Iraq, there's little that can pass for 'progress' and "political stagnation" has become the watchword. Will US troops remain in Iraq? The issue, Al Mada reports, is little more than a "political pressure card" within Iraq used by various blocs in various ways. A political scientist at Baghdad University tells Al Mada that he fears that politicians are not factoring in what's best for Iraq but how to posture on the issue. Aswat al-Iraq adds that US Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani met and Talabani's office issued a statement which includes: "The bilateral relations between the Republic of Iraq and the United States were discussed in the meeting, and necessity for their expansion and development, especially the bilateral future cooperation, within the Strategic Agreement, concluded between the two friendly countries."
What the White House wants is an extension of the SOFA or a new agreement which would allow US troops to stay on the ground in Iraq beyond 2011 and under the US Defense Dept. If that is not possible, the plan is to take the troops remaining in Iraq and slide them under the umbrella of the US State Dept in which case their presence is covered under the Strategic Framework Agreement of 2008. Ed O'Keefe does the "Federal Eye" beat for the Washington Post. For the next several weeks, he is in Iraq. This morning, he Tweeted:
edatpost edatpost
In his article on this issue he explained that the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, in a GAO Office report, "acknowledged it is not designed to assume the military's mission in Iraq and will have to rely on its own resources and the assistance of the host country to protect the U.S. mission in the absence of the funding, personnel, equipment, and protection formerly provided by the U.S. military." He was referring to the report entitled [PDF format warning] "Expanded Missions and Inadequate Facilities Pose Critical Challenges to Training Efforts." The report stood as prepared remarks by GAO's Jess Ford as he appeared this afternoon before the Senate's Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, Federal Workforce and DC. Senator Daniel Akaka is the Subcomittee Chair. He noted, "This Subcommittee held a hearing in 2009 to examine staffing and management challenges at the State Dept's Diplomatic Security Bureau which protects State Dept employees and property worldwide. Today's hearing will build on the previous hearing, as well as examine the results of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) review of Diplomatic Security training challenges."
There were two panels. Ford was on the first panel with the State Dept's Eric J. Boswell. The second panel was Susan R. Johnson of the American Foreign Service Association. We'll excerpt this from the first panel.
Subcommittee Chair Daniel Akaka: My question to you, what planning is underway to make sure DS [State Dept's Diplomatic Security] will be able to be prepared to protect diplomats and US civilian personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan as the military withdraws?
Ambassador Eric Boswell: Mr. Chairman, thank you for that question. We are engaged -- we the Dept of State and DS -- are engaged in a marathon of planning. I think that's the right way to describe it. It's probably -- The planning for the transition in Iraq is probably the most complex planning effort ever undertaken by the State Dept and perhaps one of the most complicated civilian planning efforts ever undertaken by the US government. We've been working on it for years. We think we have a very good planning strategy and we think we have a good plan and the short answer to your question, sir, is that I think that we will be able to be in a position to provide the security for our people in Iraq after December 31st of this year when all US troops will be gone from the country. Having said that, as I said, it's a very, very complex and difficult task. We are going to be dramatically increasing the number of security personnel at post in Iraq. And we will be increasing also the use of contractors in part for some of the things you mentioned and Mr. Ford mentioned, certain functions and activities that are not mainstream State Dept functions and were we are taking over functions now provided by the US military. We think we've got the structure in place to do it. I'l -- I-I-I should make the point that combat operations in Iraq ceased over a year ago, US military combat operations in Iraq ceased over a year ago. We have been providing security to our very large US embassy in Baghdad for over a year without any assistance from the military beyond certain very specialized funtions and we expect to be able to continue to do so. You asked about Afghanistan also, sir. Obviously, we are not there yet, there is not a transition yet. The president has just announced the beginning of a drawdown in Afghanistan but I can assure you that we have learned a lot in the planning process for Iraq and we will apply those lessons in Afghanistan.
Subcommittee Chair Daniel Akaka: Thank you. Ambassador, as the military withdraws from Iraq and Afghanistan -- later Afghanistan -- DS will provide certain security and protective services that the military is performing now such as downed aircraft recovery and explosive ordinance disposal; however, the military provides many services such as intelligence collection and providing a visible deterrence in ways that DS cannot. How will the loss of these important capabilities effect the way DS provides security in Iraq and Afghanistan? And is DS equipped to handle all of the functions it will be asked to assume?
Ambassador Eric Boswell: Uhm, senator, Mr. Chairman, I was in Iraq several years ago and the security situation in Iraq now, I think it's fair to say, is infinitely better then it was at the worst of times: 2005 to 2007. You are right, sir, in saying that certain key functions of the US military will be absent. They can't be replaced by DS -- notably, uh -uh, counter-rocket fire. We are not an offensive unit in DS. Some intelligence functions as well. We are going -- As Iraq normalizes as a nation, we are going to rely as we do in most countries on the Iraqi forces and the Iraqi police for these functions to the maximum extent that we can.
Subcommittee Chair Daniel Akaka: Well, Mr. Ford, in 2009, GAO recommended that State conduct a security review of diplomatic security's mission, budget and personnel as part of State's Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. While State agreed with the recommendation, the QDDR did not include this strategic review. Will you please discuss how inadequate the stategic planning may effect DS operations?
Jess Ford: Uh, yeah, Mr. Chairman, let me respond to that. First of all, I can say that we were disappointed that the QDDR did not take a more strategic look at DS operations. Our 2009 report suggested that DS has been required to expand a number of missions that it's asked to support by the Dept overall and that they're often put into what I would characterize as a reactionary posture which we don't think is good from a planning point of view and our goal of that 2009 was that the Dept would take a longer look at DS and come up with a more strategic way of asessing needs, resources and requirements. I think I can say that our current report which is focused on the training parts of DS suggests that there still seems in my mind to be a gap here.
Asked about the use of security contractors, Boswell insisted this was a must, that multiple studies demonstrated this and he cited his 2007 visit as somehow proof. He then suggested that at some point, as Iraq becomes more 'stable,' they might be able to replace the foreign security contractors with "nationals" (Iraqis) and stated that they currently use "nationals" in Erbil. He also claimed "about eighty" DS employees would be providing contract oversight to ensure that contractors were behaving properly (in his opening remarks, Subcommittee Chair Daniel Akaka noted the Nassar Square slaughter in September 2007 by Blackwater mercenaries guarding the State Dept). He noted there were two kinds of security contractors: contract guards and the bodyguards -- contract guards = static guards; bodyguards = protective security details, "the movement people who travel in the motorcades and who run the motorcades."

RECOMMENDED: "Iraq snapshot"
"In spite of all the costs, no progress, just polit..."
"The fallen"
"Tom Hanks and his bad movie"
"5 men, 0 women"
"he's not smart at all"
"The sad and pathetic Janeane Garofalo"
"Tom Petty needs to grow the hell up"
"Bye-bye big butt"
"Sucky week"
"They work together to harm us"
"Just a make over"