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World shrinks for US diplomats

Issue 285
Front Page
Index
Headlines

UNDP Appraises Its Programs And Projects In Somaliland

Berbera Immigration Officials Block ‘Illegal’ Deportation Of Somaliland Citizen To Yemen

Somaliland Representative Visiting The United Nations

Somaliland Regional Games Tournament Begin 23 July 2007

Somaliland Women 'Nagaad' Umbrella Organization Inaugurates Its 10th Anniversary

Non-Governmental Group Accuses Interim Somali Government Of Harassment

At the UN, Somalia's Gedi Asks for $32 Million, Denies Restricting Opponents' Travel

'It is always necessary to make the N.R.C. political,' says a Somali scholar

Stability in Somalia 'a dream'

Somali elders search for peace

Regional Affairs

Somaliland’s Communiqué To African Leaders’ Summit In Accra

Somaliland Bans Use Of New Somali Passport

Editorial
Special Report

International News

World shrinks for US diplomats

Torn Between Two Cultures

US is about to pull out of Somalia again- a mistake

Minister in Sarkozy's Government: Bush might be behind 9/11 Attacks

FEATURES & COMMENTARY

Gorbachev At The “Global Citizen Project” Exhibition

Somaliland in Accra, Ghana, on the Occasion of the African Union Summit 27 June to 3 July 2007

Somaliland: Africa’s Best Kept Secret

Harnessing Community Power In Somaliland

Blinders On Borders

Martin Meridith’s The State Of Africa: A History Of Fifty Years Of Independence

Crackdown in Ethiopia condemned

Food for thought

Opinions

An Invitation To The Mayor Of Hargeysa To A Dialogue On Freedom Of The Press

SL document archives

Sack The Somaliland Leaders

UDUB, UCID, and KULMIYE: Are There Any Differences?

Democracy Requires An Informed Citizenry

The Mayor Of Hargeysa—The New Mohammed Dheere Of Somaliland


WASHINGTON, 8 July 2007 - Threatened abroad, US diplomats have been hit with unprecedented security restrictions, confining many to fortress-like compounds and frustrating Bush administration efforts to get out and counter anti-US sentiment. Lockdowns and prohibitions on travel now apply to Americans posted to embassies and consulates in at least 28 nations, according to an Associated Press survey of State Department warnings, internal directives and officials.

More than half the nations are identified as key to curbing the spread of militant Islam. Since the Sept 11, 2001, attacks, the number of posts deemed too dangerous for US diplomats to bring families has doubled, from 10 to 21. And since the 1980s, the number of missions where employees receive danger pay has soared from two- Colombia and Lebanon- to 26. The rise in hotspot posts has made it difficult for the department to recruit people to serve in them, including new embassies opening in Afghanistan and Iraq. But the no-family rules go far beyond Kabul and Baghdad, covering all seven US missions in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as well as 12 posts in Bosnia, the Central African Republic, Congo, Kosovo, Liberia and Sudan.

Even in countries where spouses and children are allowed, travel restrictions have been imposed because of threats from Islamic militants, other terrorism concerns, civil disturbances and, to a lesser extent, crime and disease. The State Department does not keep records on the number of posts covered at any one time by travel restrictions, but the American Foreign Service Association, the union for US diplomats, believes it is higher now than at any other point since the organization was founded in 1924.

The impact on foreign policy is considerable, sweeping across four continents and many countries where the US hopes to counter the spread of extremism and improve America's tarnished image. "The policy we have for diplomatic security actually makes us less secure as a nation because it limits our ability to carry out our mission in critical environments," said Patrick Fine, a former senior Foreign Service officer who ran the US Agency for International Development's mission in Afghanistan in 2004 and 2005. Fine is hardly alone in that feeling. This spring, the Government Accountability Office identified security restrictions as a major hindrance to reversing anti-US trends.

Security concerns have forced embassies to close publicly accessible facilities and curtail certain public outreach efforts, sending the unintended message that the United States is unapproachable," it said in the little-publicized April 26 report. An internal review by the State Department in 2005 concluded that security concerns "often require a low-profile approach during events, programs or other situations, which, in happier times, would have been able to generate considerable good will for the United States." Department officials insist diplomats are still able to do their jobs, though keeping them safe -particularly after the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania- may affect their ability to work.

It's always a matter of managing risk," said spokesman Sean McCormack, who served as economic, commercial and consular officer at the US Embassy in Algeria at the height of a bloody Islamist insurgency in 1998 and 1999 that led to dire security measures at the mission. "I couldn't leave the compound without armed escorts, but I found I could have every meeting I needed to have, maybe not at the exact time I wanted, but I was able to arrange it," he said.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has put a premium on safety, he said. "Her top priority is that people are protected when doing their jobs, but, at the same time, she wants them to get out from behind their desks and engage with local communities beyond capitals," McCormack said. "We can be very creative, and the bottom line is that our officers are out there. They are out there beyond the wire." Many have paid the price. At least 19 embassy employees have died of unnatural causes in the line of duty over the past decade, according to AFSA.

In addition to the Al-Qaeda hotbeds of Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, official US travel is banned or curtailed due to Islamic terrorism concerns in Algeria, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Israel, Lebanon, Mali, the Palestinian territories, the Philippines, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Yemen, according to the AP survey. Outside of areas where radical Islam is considered the main threat, travel restrictions for US diplomats are in place in Burundi, Colombia, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Haiti, India , Laos, Nepal, Peru, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Venezuela. Many of those countries are beset by internal strife. Curbs on US official movement are most restrictive in Afghanistan and Iraq, where diplomats are barely able to leave their offices. The AP survey did not include countries where the US does not maintain a diplomatic presence, notably Iran, North Korea and Somalia. Nor does it include nations that have slapped travel restrictions on US diplomats in retaliation for similar measures imposed by Washington, such as Cuba, Eritrea and Zimbabwe.

Source: AP


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