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In the Loop

Round-Trip or One-Way Tickets?

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, November 24, 2004; Page A19

Seems that folks at the Agency for International Development are not rushing to fill 23 excellent jobs in garden spots such as Iraq and Afghanistan. And if no one volunteers soon, AID Administrator Andrew S. Natsios said in an agency-wide e-mail Friday, the agency will order people to fill those posts.

"I am calling for . . . employees to consider serving in one of the positions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan listed," Natsios said in his e-mail, adding that he was "extremely hopeful" enough volunteers would be found.

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Several hundred AID folks went to a meeting yesterday in which Natsios exhorted the troops to sign up, stressing the importance of foreign aid and good works and all that. The American Foreign Service Association, the employee union, is on board for now, hoping the volunteer approach works. If it doesn't . . . well, they'll get to that question if they have to.

As it stands, though, if not enough volunteers come forward, some AID personnel could be required to sign up for duty in Iraq, probably for a year. Those in the at-risk category are the several hundred AID workers who are ending their tours in the next few months and looking for their next assignments.

Employees lucky enough to snag a posting in Geneva or Rome -- or, given the alternatives, even Mongolia or the Bolivian Altiplano -- will not be drafted.

Those who have not secured new assignments, Natsios said, "will be required" to volunteer for the unfilled jobs in those four countries, and one of the two positions they bid for must be in Iraq.

Not to despair, this could still work out all right if you know how to game the system. Eighteen of the 23 jobs are in Iraq, but some areas obviously are much safer than others.

For example, three "regional coordinators" are needed in Iraq. One is central, in Hillah. Don't go there. Another is in the south, in Basra. Dicier but pretty good as long as Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani keeps Moqtada Sadr under wraps. The third is in Erbil, in the Kurdish area, or what might be called eventually the Former Iraqi Republic of Kurdistan, or FIROK.

Erbil had its scary moments a while back, but surely the most needy area for AID is in the heart of the Kurdish region in Sulaymaniyah. You will naturally discover massive development projects to be undertaken there, and these will require you to spend most of your time in that very lovely, peaceful area.

That failing, go for the legal adviser job. Stay behind the desk.

Clock Nears, Deadline Is Ticking

Don't forget to enter the In the Loop Name That Tune Contest! This is to help the beleaguered, befuddled Democrats -- still searching for campaign positions that can beat the Republican juggernaut -- to come up with a catchy theme song to give at least musical coherence to the effort. So think of something catchy for the Dems. Folk, rock, country, punk, opera or any other type will do. Something like Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive"?

Send your entry -- and rationale -- via e-mail to intheloop@washpost.comor mail to In the Loop, The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Deadline is midnight Dec. 6. Top 10 winners get a still-rare, highly coveted In the Loop T-shirt.

Entries on background are welcome, but everyone must include telephone contact numbers to be eligible.

Some Secret: Open House, Open Bar

Remember a while back when it came out that intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency -- the supersecret spy crowd -- did not have the resources to keep up with the flood of intercepts to be able to translate terrorists' chatter on a timely basis?

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