Showing posts with label state-department. Show all posts
Showing posts with label state-department. Show all posts

Sunday, March 1, 2015

FY 2015 Funding for NGO Programs (Refugees)

The U.S. Department of State has announced an opportunity for funding of NGO programs benefiting Afghan returnees and IDPs in Afghanistan and Afghan refugees in Pakistan. The announcement, made on February 10, 2015, includes specific instructions for NGOs on how to apply for the State Department funding.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Ambassador P. Michael McKinley

Ambassador P. Michael McKinley recently presented his diplomatic credentials to President Ghani in early January 2015. McKinley is no stranger to Afghanistan. His biography is posted on the website of the U.S. Embassy of Afghanistan at the link below.

Friday, December 19, 2014

SIGAR Report on Afghan Women

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has issued a report entitled Afghan Women:  Comprehensive Assessments Needed to Determine and Measure DOD, State, and USAID Progress, SIGAR 15-24 Audit Report, December 2014. The report states that there is no comprehensive assessment available to confirm that gains have been made in the status of women as a direct result of U.S. efforts. Together, DoD, State, and USAID spent over $64 million on over 650 projects, programs, and initiatives to support Afghan women from 2011 to 2013. SIGAR found there is a lack of accountability in the programs because none of the three agencies (DOD, State, and USAID) have effective mechanisms for tracking the funding associated with the women's projects. The report contains a number of recommendations on the way forward. Read the report at the link below:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

New U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan

The U.S. Senate has approved the administrations' nominee for Ambassador to Afghanistan. Peter McKinley passed muster on December 9th. He is an experienced diplomat with service in Kabul. McKinley is a former U.S. Ambassador to Peru and Columbia. He arrived in Afghanistan in 2013. (Radio Free Europe, December 10, 2014).

Monday, December 1, 2014

Ambassador Cunningham Says "Goodbye"

The United States Ambassador to Afghanistan, James B. Cunningham, is saying "Goodbye". He has spent 3 1/2 years here in Afghanistan - having been posted to Kabul in the summer of 2011. Read the transcript of his departure speech in an embassy press release (November 29, 2014) "Ambassador James B. Cunningham's Remarks at Official Farewell Reception".

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Call for Extension of Visa Program for Interpreters

For the last several years the blame for the poor implementation of the Special Immigrant Visa Program for Afghan interpreters can easily be placed on the Department of State. Up until mid-2014 the State Department was doing everything it could to NOT provide visas to Afghan interpreters who wished to immigrate to the United States. Finally State saw the light after getting hammered by members of Congress and the media. Now it is Congress that is under the spotlight. The visa program needs to be extended so that up to 9,000 more Afghans can get visas. The program sunsets at the end of the year. There are two bills before Congress - one in the house and one in the Senate. The Senate bill is more generous. Read more in "Extend the special visa program for Afghan interpreters", The Washington Post, November 17, 2014.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Audit of Kabul Embassy Security Force

The Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of State recently conducted an audit of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security Worldwide Protective Services Contract (Task Order 10) for the Kabul Embassy Security Force (dated October 2014). You can read the report of the audit at the link below:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

State Department - Little Afghan War News

A few days ago Afghan War News posted a blurb about how the Department of Defense seems to be ignoring news about Afghanistan. An examination of a Daily Press Briefing by the U.S. State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki held on October 27, 2014 provides the same result. The graphic to the left is a snip of the contents of the briefing for Oct 27th. Topics covered in the briefing include Lebanon, ISIL, Canada, Ebola, Syria, Israel, Ukraine, Tunisia, China, Hong Kong, Turkey, Indonesia, Russia, Iran and Egypt. Afghanistan? No where to be found. Afghanistan: The War that the Defense Department and State Department forgot!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

SIGAR - State Dept Wastes $3.6 Million on Three Trucks

A State Department contract for three mobile television production trucks that are to be donated to Afghan television networks is under investigation by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). The trucks, delivered two years late, are still not in use. The trucks are reported to be in Kabul sitting under tarps. The trucks were satellite / microwave television broadcast trucks to be used for live sporting events such as football (soccer), cricket, buzkashi, and other sports. The cost of two of the trucks tripled in price. Read more in a letter from SIGAR to the Secretary of State John Kerry requesting clarification (dated October 15, 2014).

Monday, October 27, 2014

Interpreter Describes Ordeal of U.S. Visa

A former Afghan interpreter who lived and worked with the U.S. military in Afghanistan for years describes the terror he endured while waiting for a U.S. visa. It took him 3 1/2 years to get a visa to come to the United States. During that time, because he assisted the U.S. military, the Taliban kidnapped his father and killed him. They later kidnapped his little brother and held him for ransom; he was released when the interpreter paid a $35,000 ransom (a lot of money for an Afghan). The U.S. State Department has been extremely negligent in the processing of visas for interpreters. It is estimated that up to 80% of Afghan interpreters have been unable to acquire visas. One of the State Department's lame excuses is that that Afghan's are a security risk and that detailed background checks are required. This is questionable - for instance, when this specific interpreter finally received his visa his legal name on the visa was "FNU Mohammad". FNU stood for First Name Unknown. How thorough of a security investigation was conducted if the visa doesn't have the first name right? Read more in "Afghan Who Helped US Describes Sheer Terror of Being a Taliban Target", Business Insider, October 23, 2014.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

State Dept Blasted on Afghan Interpreter Issue

The State Department has done a horrible job in managing the Special Immigrant Visa program for Afghan interpreters. Congress has allocated by law thousands of visa quotas for Afghans who served as interpreters and translators for the U.S. military yet the State Department has been an obstacle to allowing Afghans who served the U.S. military who wish to re-locate to the United States. For instance, in 2011 there were 1,500 visas that could have been granted; yet the State Department issued only 3 visas. Appalling! John Oliver, of the "Last Week Tonight" show, provides us with a humorous yet very pointed look at how badly the State Department has performed its duties. View a video (16 minutes of pure laughs) on a description of the red tape an interpreter must make his way through in order to get a visa at this link.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Kerry Enthusiastic about Afghan Election

Despite the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) not releasing the results of the extremely fraudulent Afghan presidential run off election held on June 14, 2014 Secretary of State John Kerry seems quite pleased with the end result of the Afghan election. Kerry has provided The Washington Post with an op-ed piece that was published on September 26, 2014 entitled "Afghanistan's triumph of statesmanship and compromise". He marked the event as " . . . the first democratic transfer of power in Afghanistan's history and the first peaceful leadership transition in more than 40 years". He states that "The United States supported a credible, transparent and inclusive electoral process without favoring any particular candidate. He really did say "credible" and "transparent". You can read the full text here.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

SIGAR Report - DoS Demining Activities in Afghanistan

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has published a report - Department of State's Demining Activities in Afghanistan: Audit of Incurred Costs by Mine Clearance Planning Agency - (SIGAR Report 14-95 Financial Audit) published in September 2014. There were four internal control deficiencies and one instance of noncompliance in the audit of costs incurred by the Mine Clearance Planning Agency (MCPA). The MCPA is an Afghanistan-based international humanitarian demining organization. The MCP received over $13 million in grands to provide support for the removal of land mines and unexploded ordnance in Afghanistan. The report finds that there was $688,206 in unsupported costs that should be scrutinized and possibly recovered.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

State Issues Background Brief on Afghan Elections

The U.S. Department of State has published online a "Background Briefing on Afghanistan" dated September 24, 2014. The briefing (because it is "background") is attributable to a "Senior State Department Official". The briefing was presented to provide an update on what is going on in Afghanistan in regards to the election results and 'unity government agreement" and then it was opened to questions.

In the brief the State participants outlined the role that State played in the resolution of the Afghan election mess, highlights the challenges ahead (security, political, and economic transitions), emphasized that the two presidential candidates will work well together, the current Afghan fiscal crisis, the inauguration date is set, prospects of peace talks with the Taliban, and state that the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement and NATO SOFA is not far away.

Of course, the more interesting aspects of these "off the record" State Department briefings the correspondents ask. Such as "Why were the results of the vote not released?" and does the State Department think these elections " . . .were free and fair and transparent and open . . . ". The pros are good at skirting the truth. You can view the background briefing online here at the State Dept portal:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

U.S. State Department Happy on Ghani-Abdullah Agreement

The United States State Department is quite happy with the two Afghan leaders finally reaching an accommodation on the release of the elections results (did the vote tallies actually get released?) and the ability of the new Afghan government to be formed. Read a State Department press statement by John Kerry (September 21, 2014).

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Cell Towers Built But Not Used in Afghanistan

The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has reported on a $6.5M project that provided no benefit (unless you count the contractor that provided the service). The State Department contracted for six cell phone towers to be built in southern Afghanistan. There were some systematic problems with the design to include the cost of running by generator (fuel) and the fact that they were not initially designed to hook into the existing telecom network in Afghanistan. The purpose of the cell phone towers was to expand and enhance telecommunication services to the civilian Afghan population in underserved but strategic areas. Another cell tower project - Expeditionary Cellular Communications System (ECCS) - was done under "Operation Palisades" by the Department of Defense; it was a $68M project awarded to ManTech. Reportedly the cell towers built for the State Department are to be auctioned off to the Afghan telecom community (it is unknown what happened to the ECCS towers). SIGAR has requested additional information from the State Department in a September 9, 2014 letter. Read more in "$6.5M telecom towers unused in Afghanistan; watchdog wants answers", The Washington Times, September 17, 2014. See also a news article on this topic in Stars and Stripes.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Report - Special Immigrant Visa Programs

The United States Department of State (until 2014) did a horrible job of managing the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. Since 2006 Congress has enacted a series of legislative provisions to enable Afghan nationals who worked as translators and interpreters to become lawful permanent residents (LPRs) of the United States. These individuals face death from the Taliban once they have been identified as working for the U.S. The U.S. State Department has been roundly criticized for its inability to process applicants - the principal bottleneck was apparently the embassy staff in Kabul. Hopefully that person(s) has lost his/her job(s) for the disservice done to Afghan interpreters who laid their lives on the line for the U.S. military. Visa issuance under the SIV programs for Afghans who worked for, or on behalf of, the U.S. government have fallen well below the statutory ceilings. Read more in Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs, CRS Report R43725, Congressional Research Service (CRS), by Andorra Bruno, September 12, 2014.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Interpreters Abandoned by U.S. State Dept

The U.S. State Department continues to receive admonishment for its abandonment of the loyal Afghan interpreters who served the U.S. military for many years in war-torn Afghanistan. Despite the State Department's best efforts at minimizing the public's negative perception of the visa backlog for Afghan interpreters the message from all corners is very clear. Members of Congress and the military want the State Department to take action instead of stonewalling the interpreters visa requests. Unfortunately the State Department appears to be abandoning the Afghan interpreters. Read more in "Tongue tied in Afghanistan", PBS Newshour, February 19, 2014.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Afghan Interpreters for New Zealand Finally get Residency

It seems that the U.S. State Department isn't the only organization having problems processing visas for Afghan interpreters. Evidently it has taken New Zealand over three years to process residency permits for some Afghan interpreters that worked for the New Zealand special operations forces. New Zealand has been a steady partner of the NATO forces in Afghanistan. Their special operations forces were operating in western Afghanistan conducting "rat patrols" through Shindand, Nimroz, and Helmand province in 2002. Later New Zealand forces stood up the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Bamyam. They also provided forces in other areas of Afghanistan as well. All these endeavors required the use of Afghan interpreters. Read more in "Afghan interpreters finally offered residency", 3 News, February 14, 2014.