LES Means More

By Al Kamen
Wednesday, November 9, 2005

We received this cable the other day from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad about exciting new job opportunities there.

"The hiring of locally engaged staff (LES) has been a slow, cumbersome and sometimes fruitless process at Mission Iraq," the embassy wrote last month to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice . "Due to the security situation and a lack of a well-established national security structure, performing proper background checks on LES candidates is very difficult and yields uncertain results."

A second problem, Baghdad noted, is that the "insurgents' intimidation campaign has touched our LES corps personally: two of our LES employees have been gunned down in execution-style murders, and two others barely escaped a similar fate in August. Our LES employees live in fear of being identified with the Embassy of the U.S. . . .

"For the first half of 2005 ten of 14 [resignations] were due to security concerns. Of 58 job offers, thirteen employees did not show up for work or resigned within 30 days. The reality is that the embassy can offer them little protection outside the International Zone (IZ) and is not in a position to grant their repeated requests to house them and their families within the IZ."

So what to do? Embassy Baghdad says the situation "has led us to consider making greater use of Third Country National (TCN) employees until the security situation allows a more reliable and robust LES program."

None of the several hundred Iraqis would be fired if this plan goes forward. "We plan to retain the loyal and talented Iraqi employees" (are these LTIs?), the cable said. But "for the immediate future . . . we will look for TCNs to fill positions that do not require American citizenship."

The embassy is looking to use Amman, Jordan, "as a recruitment and employment platform to hire qualified TCN employees who would then be sent to Baghdad under TDY [temporary duty] orders for varying lengths of time according to need."

You don't have to be Jordanian to apply. These jobs would be open to "anyone legally employable in Jordan." You would get the same pay scale as in Amman, with a 50 percent raise for danger pay.

The Appellation Trail

There's chatter at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service that Douglas J. Feith , former undersecretary of defense and key architect of the Iraq war, is in line to be "distinguished professor in the practice of diplomacy."

The matter sparked vigorous debate and opposition when it came up at a mid-term faculty lunch with Dean Robert L. Gallucci . We're told some faculty members felt Gallucci isn't empowered to offer the job, but Gallucci said he has the authority and is raising money for the post.

One source said the faculty was "up in arms" at the lunch; another styled it a "friendly debate," both over Gallucci's flexing his muscle and over hiring Feith, who some feel may be a tad lacking on diplomatic credentials. Prior appointees to these "distinguished professor" gigs include former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright , who had been an academic and U.N. ambassador, former Clinton national security adviser Anthony Lake , a career foreign service officer and college professor, and Donald F. McHenry , a longtime State Department hand and former U.N. ambassador.

Feith, in addition to his recent Pentagon tour, had been a Reagan National Security Council aide for five years. Between government stints, he practiced law. He's now ensconced as a distinguished fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford where he's working to finish a book on his Iraq adventure, and is considering other academic offers.

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