• A Meditation on Irrelevancy in Kabul

    May 9, 2012

    Tags: , , , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Embassy/State

    To further the debate on the value of social media as practiced at taxpayer’s expense by the US Embassy in Kabul, here is one of their actual Tweets:

    Robust is the Word

    But wait, there’s more. You’ll recall that thanks to a whistleblower at the US Embassy in Kabul, we learned that the State Department wasted $80 million on a new Consulate building in Afghanistan that will never open. After initially stating they would not comment on leaked documents, the Embassy press office in Kabul manned up to release this statement:

    The United States is committed to a long-term diplomatic presence in Mazar-e-Sharif. There is already a robust U.S. diplomatic presence in the City and we are evaluating our options as to how and when a permanent U.S. diplomatic presence will be established.

    Now how helpful is that? Anyone, anyone… Bueller? Not a word on the wasted $80 million, not a word on the fact that we the taxpayers only know about the wasted $80 million because of a leak and not a single piece of actual meat, but they did slip in the word “robust.” Tip for aspiring diplomats: anytime someone at the State Department uses the word “robust,” grab your wallet and run away.

    Afghanistan’s Next Generation of Law Professors Find Success at Home and Abroad

    Ok, Ok, maybe some good news from the Embassy. In another social media coup, the State Department announces that “Afghanistan’s Next Generation of Law Professors Find Success at Home and Abroad.” This little speck of taxpayer-paid fluff is all about the success of a scholarship program, written by the same person who is responsible for running the program. Objectivity builds credibility in social media ya’all! LOL!

    Unfortunately, even a puff piece like this reveals more than it should. Just by reading the propaganda, you find that the program has been running since 2004 and in eight years, all of 229 people have participated, just 28 a year from a country of over 34 million. Worse yet, of those 229 only 18 have actually graduated from the full program. As a topper, some of the law grads major in sharia law under our sponsorship. Nobody is saying how much all this cost us so far, but the best news (!) is that the entire program is going to be refunded for another five years. The measure of success, the metric used to determine whatever amount of money being spent is paying off for the US? The author and program manager herself sez “I know that these law professors and the students they teach back home will continue to reform Afghanistan’s justice system from within.” Done.

    But wait (shout State’s public diplomacists) helping lawyers in Afghanistan is not a bad thing! And even if the numbers helped are not as robust as we’d like, isn’t it better to do something instead of nothing? Doesn’t every little bit help?

    Yes, yes, the same tired rhetorical questions State trots out to justify its wandering-in-the-dark programs. The same tired response is that the US is supposedly engaged in a worldwide struggle and State is supposed to support the greater geopolitical goals of the nation. After eight years if the best you can do is say, well, it doesn’t seem harmful and maybe a few people benefited, that is a pretty piss poor justification for a program that costs millions of taxpayer dollars.

    Measuring ROL Success

    Absent self-serving resume fodder (above), the only possible attempt at assessing these so-called “Rule of Law” (ROL) efforts in Afghanistan I could locate was a 2008 Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report. That report concluded, inter alia:

    — The many U.S. efforts to support ROL in Afghanistan are laudable for their professionalism and tenacity, but it is often not clear how, or even if, ROL efforts are being measured for success, and when the intense international attention wanes, whether these projects can be sustained.

    — The U.S. government, through several agencies, is funding many programs related to ROL. This inspection team found no indication that the funds are being used improperly. However, no one source seems to have a clear picture of the scope of U.S. expenditure in this field.

    I tried very hard to find out what the lawyer exchange program mentioned above cost, but failed. I did learn from the OIG report that from FY 2002 through FY 2007, the civilian side of the USG spent a whopping $110.4 million on such Rule of Law programs. It appears no one knows how much the military spent alongside the civilians on Rule of Law; the OIG report unhelpfully states

    There was no way to determine what the many different elements of DOD (some under direct DOD command, some under NATO), were spending specifically on ROL, but the current military leadership in Afghanistan briefed the team that implementing ROL programs was important to them.

    The OIG report, speaking of the civilian-military interface, not surprisingly reports that coordination is not as robust as it could be, and makes this staggering recommendation for success:

    Embassy Kabul should demonstrate its commitment to the role of the rule-of-law coordinator, through a means such as having the deputy chief of mission attend at least one meeting of the Special Committee on Rule of Law each month.

    Whooooa! No way, attend one whole meeting a month? Feeling better now?

    It’s All About Relationships

    And finally, just to clarify things, here is the actual wire diagram showing the relationships among the players in Rule of Law issues at the US Embassy in Kabul.

    It becomes clearer each day why the State Department is sinking deeper into irrelevancy. Keep at ’em boys and you’ll soon become the Vanilla Ice of foreign affairs!

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  • Recent Comments

    • Rich Bauer said...


      05/9/12 5:27 PM | Comment Link

    • Billy Ray said...


      How do you spit these out one after another? I guess there really is plenty of subject material… I’m curious if you ever considered yourself a possible modern day – Thomas Paine.

      One day your blogs ought to be combined into a book entitled: “Common Sense” leading a new revolution in the way our government does business. How about that for a vision for you?

      05/9/12 6:01 PM | Comment Link

    • Administrator said...


      If the Government would stop doing stupid, wasteful things I would stop writing. As it is, sadly, these things kind of write themselves.

      05/9/12 7:10 PM | Comment Link

    • Meloveconsullongtime said...


      The wire diagram looks like something a meth head drew for me in the bus station.

      05/10/12 12:44 AM | Comment Link

    • jo6pac said...


      You’ll never be without material to write about thats a given;)

      05/10/12 8:37 PM | Comment Link

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