- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A report by Senate Republican staffers urges the departments of Defense and State to better coordinate the role of military personnel in U.S. embassies and warns that a growing military presence is causing anxiety among some host governments.

“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,” the report says.

It adds: “There is evidence that some host countries are questioning the increasingly military component of America’s profile overseas.”

The report, titled “Embassies as Command Posts in the Anti-Terror Campaign,” was prepared last month by staff from the outgoing Republican majority on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Then-Chairman Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, sent six staffers to visit 20 countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East to examine the relationship between the State Department and the Defense Department in U.S. embassies and the effect it was having in the war on terror.

The report, which was filed with little fanfare Dec. 15, warns of the risk of bruising policy and management conflicts in four areas:

• Development assistance to foreign countries, especially in the Horn of Africa.

• Training and materiel support for foreign militaries.

• The deployment of special-operations forces to more than 50 countries.

• The operation in many embassies of small teams of military personnel conducting so-called “information operations.”

Such teams of three or four persons have been deployed to 18 embassies in “key countries to carry out informational programs” and are expected in a dozen more “if current plans are realized,” the report says.

“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,” it adds.

“Some host countries have elements in both government and general society who are highly suspicious of potential American coercion.”

The report says some ambassadors insisted on having memorandums of understanding signed by regional combatant commanders “to clarify lines of authority” for military personnel operating in their country.

“The situation should not be left for resolution in the heat of the moment,” it warns, recommending that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “pursue a more systemic solution” and negotiate “a global memorandum of agreement” with the new defense secretary.

“It is important,” the report concludes, “to get lines-of-authority questions sorted out before directives from the ambassador and the combatant commander conflict in an urgent situation.”

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