Secrecy News

Report: Militarization of U.S. Embassies Arouses Suspicion

The growing military presence at U.S. embassies abroad is arousing suspicion among some foreign officials and producing friction between civilian foreign service officers and military personnel, according to a new staff report from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“There is evidence that some host countries are questioning the increasingly military component of America’s profile overseas,” the report found. “Some foreign officials question what appears to them as a new emphasis by the United States on military approaches to problems that are not seen as lending themselves to military solutions.”

“For the most part, ambassadors welcome the additional resources that the military brings and they see strong military-to-military ties as an important ingredient in a strong bilateral relationship. Nonetheless, State and USAID personnel often question the purposes, quantity, and quality of the expanded military activities in-country.”

“One ambassador lamented that his effectiveness in representing the United States to foreign officials was beginning to wane, as more resources are directed to special operations forces and intelligence. Foreign officials are ‘following the money’ in terms of determining which relationships to emphasize, he reported.”

“Left unclear, blurred lines of authority between the State Department and the Defense Department could lead to interagency turf wars that undermine the effectiveness of the overall U.S. effort against terrorism. It is in the embassies rather than in Washington where interagency differences on strategies, tactics and divisions of labor are increasingly adjudicated.”

See “Embassies as Command Posts in the Anti-Terror Campaign,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff report, December 15, 2006.

Update: Mark Mazzetti of the New York Times reported on the Committee report on December 20, and it was discussed the same day in WhirledView.

0 thoughts on “Report: Militarization of U.S. Embassies Arouses Suspicion

  1. Buried further in the report, under regional findings, is the following paragraph:

    One Central African country in particular illustrates the need for State Department perspective and guidance to temper Defense Department enthusiasm. The country is unstable, desperately poor, and run by a repressive government that is being challenged by a persistent armed resistance. Desperate for a military strong enough to protect it from the rebels, the government has signed an Article 98 agreement, exempting U.S. military personnel from International Criminal Court procedures and thus enabling it to receive military assistance. It has also signed a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States. With extensive “under-governed spaces” as potential terrorist havens and bordering countries with equally uncertain futures, the country was termed “a model country for security assistance” by the regional combatant command. Civilian
    embassy officials, however, are demonstrably less keen. They question the rate at which military programs are rapidly escalating and the sizable and still growing presence of U.S. military personnel in-country. A U.S.-labeled backpack, observed on a government soldier undergoing U.S. training, underscored for SFRC staff the potential complications of a too-close association with the country’s military. It would be a major setback if the United States were to be implicated in support of operations shoring up the repressive regime, regardless of the stated intent of such training.

    I am assuming that this is refering to the Central African Republic. Earlier last year there were numerous reports on large numbers of inhabitants in the northern part of that nation fleeing government repression, accusing government troops of “travelling from village to village in the north of CAR, entering villages and simply opening fire on anyone who is male.” [for instance, see the BBC report, dated March 25, 2006, Thousands flee from CAR violence]

    Is this the type of operation that the perception managers prefer to avoid being implicated in?

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