Seven days after sending our 10-page letter to the State Department about the security situation at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, we have received this reply:
Here it is again in case you missed it: "The Bureau of Public Affairs is in receipt of your message. We encourage you to visit our website at http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/
This is only the second time the main arm of the State Department has formally reached out to POGO since receiving our letter (we did meet informally with an embassy official earlier this week). The first? That would be word from the Office of the Inspector General saying they can neither confirm nor deny the existence of investigation, even though the investigation had been reported by the press an hour earlier. In the next day's press briefing, a State Department spokesman said that security at the embassy has not been compromised—a position that bluntly contradicts reports from whistleblowers, memos from guard force supervisors, and even the department's own contracting officers.
So far the State Department has swiftly disciplined some of the guards involved in the hazing rituals. And while lurid pictures may be worth a thousand words, the bulk of our letter focused on systemic issues that went far beyond the obscene extracurricular activities of portions of the guard force. The State Department still has a host of big-picture problems to address. Will it be able to hire a guard force free of internal language barriers? How does it plan to protect whilstleblowers? And perhaps most importantly, can the department prove that it can properly oversee its contractors?
Unfortunately, it will take much more than a perfunctory reply before we're ready to declare these issues "Solved."
-- Bryan Rahija