The State Department will order as many as 50 U.S. diplomats to take posts in Iraq next year because of expected shortfalls in filling openings there, the first such large-scale forced assignment since the Vietnam War.
On Monday, 200 to 300 employees will be notified of their selection as “prime candidates” for 50 open positions in Iraq, said Harry K. Thomas, director general of the Foreign Service. Some are expected to respond by volunteering, he said. However, if an insufficient number volunteers by Nov. 12, a department panel will determine which ones will be ordered to report to the Baghdad embassy next summer.
“If people say they want to go to Iraq, we will take them,” Thomas said in an interview. But “we have to move now, because we can’t hold up the process.” Those on the list were selected by factors including grade, specialty and language skill, as well as “people who have not had a recent hardship tour,” he said.
Fools. Don’t they know the Surge is working? And now a reference that tells us, this ain’t no Vietnam:
Although a few skilled individuals were ordered to “hard-to-fill” diplomatic posts in past decades, there have been no mass “directed assignments” in the Foreign Service since 1969, when an entire class of 15 to 20 entry-level officers was sent to Vietnam, Thomas said.
Those who are ordered to Baghdad as part of the new call-up will receive incentives, known as the Iraq Service Package, already offered to volunteers. It includes additional pay of about 70 percent for most mid-level officers, plus another 20 percent of basic salary to compensate for long hours. Officers are not allowed to take their families to Baghdad, but the package allows them to leave spouses and children in whatever post they transfer from for the length of their tour, or to send them back to Washington.
U.S. diplomats in Baghdad are given five “rest and relaxation” breaks during the year, including up to three of them in the United States, for a total of 60 days outside Iraq. Those completing a Baghdad tour are also given preference in choosing their next assignment.
What’s wrong with the State Department? Why aren’t spouses and children allowed? Don’t they know the Surge is working? And 60 days outside of the country out of 365? One day in six? You’d think the folks with information about what is actually going on think that things aren’t going so well in Iraq.