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.