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MARCH 2015


The Washington-Field Relationship


here is inWashington a widespread tendency to

regard the field missions as the eyes and arms of

United States policy, but taking no part in the function

of the brain. It should be obvious, of course, that policy

toward any country cannot be determined exclusively

by the field mission there. The relationship between the

United States and any other country in today’s world is

not merely a bilateral matter. It must be placed within a

framework of regional and global policy and strategy.

At the same time, the field mission has the great

advantage over Washington of being in intimate

contact with the whole spectrum of relationships—

political, economic, psychological and military; and the ambassador is better

placed than any singleWashington officer to weigh together the various ele-

ments in a broad country strategy.

It follows that the field mission should be called upon to think in strategic

terms, and to recommend policies actively toWashington, rather than merely

serving as observer, reporter and executant. This is equally true of the com-

ponent operating units in the aid, information and military fields. At the same

time, in order to maintain a regional and global unity, the field mission should

be kept abreast of the evolution of Washington policies, with ample opportu-

nity to comment on them and to participate in their formulation. Much has

been done in recent years to improve this relationship.

Excerpt from Lincoln Gordon’s testimony before the Senate

Subcommittee on National Security Staffing and Operations regarding

relations between embassy andWashington, in “On the Front Lines of History”

by Robert McClintock,


, March 1965. At the time, Gordon was ambassador

to Brazil, a political appointee.

50 Years Ago

tify lessons learned and best practices in

aid coordination, and has also developed

a “High-Risk List”—seven program areas

that are vital to the reconstruction effort’s

success, but are at risk of failure due

to waste, fraud or abuse. In each area,

the sources of risk are detailed and the

degree of risk documented.

More significant in this latest report,

however, is what is missing: informa-

tion and analysis of the status of the

Afghan National Security Forces—whose

development and sustenance account for

$65 billion, or more than half, of the $107

billion U.S. investment on the civilian

account since 2002.

In his letter of transmittal, Mr. Sopko

calls attention to the Jan. 18 decision

by General John F. Campbell—com-

mander of the downsized and renamed

NATO mission in Afghanistan, Resolute

Support—to classify a broad range of

information that SIGAR has used, until

now, to publicly report on the progress

of the ANSF, Ministry of Defense and the

Ministry of the Interior.

“The classification of this volume

of data for SIGAR’s quarterly report is

unprecedented,” the report states. “The

decision leaves SIGAR for the first time

in six years unable to publicly report on

most of the U.S.-taxpayer-funded efforts

to build, train, equip and sustain the


The list of questions for the Reso-

lute Support Mission, whose answers

are off-limits to the public, is included

in Appendix E, and Campbell’s letter

appears in Appendix F.

The trend toward greater

classification is not new. As

Sopko notes, in the previ-

ous quarter the International

Security Assistance Force

(ISAF) had classified the

executive summary of a report

SIGAR used as a primary

source of information on ANSF


“ISAF’s classification of the

report summary deprives the

American people of an essential

tool to measure the success or

failure of the single most costly

feature of the Afghanistan recon-

struction effort,” Sopko stated in his October report.

“SIGAR and Congress can, of course,

request classified briefings on this infor-

mation, but its inexplicable classification

now and its disappearance from public

view does a disservice to the interest of

informed national discussion,” he added,

questioning how dissemination of

aggregate national data on ANSF could

compromise operational security.

Earlier in the year, ISAF had stopped

publicly reporting data on Taliban

attacks, and SIGAR has faulted it for

classifying information about the Afghan

Special Mission Wing.

Created by Congress in 2008, SIGAR’s