- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2014

U.S. Ambassador to Bahrain Thomas C. Krajeski has engaged in a “seat of the pants” leadership style that has left his employees to fend for themselves and has damaged Washington’s reputation in the Persian Gulf island kingdom, the State Department’s inspector general says in a new report.

Mr. Krajeski has done little to plan for the future of the diplomatic mission, is providing poor leadership to staff members and has earned the ire of the local population, possibly to the detriment of U.S. diplomatic interests, says report, which was released Thursday.

“His belief that reactive ‘seat of the pants’ leadership works best in Bahrain’s challenging environment has left staff members who do not have access to him on a regular basis confused about mission goals,” says the report, an unusually harsh criticism of a sitting diplomatic official.

Headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, Bahrain supported the U.S. in both wars in Iraq, and currently buys $1.4 billion worth of military equipment from the U.S. each year.

American officials have been hard-pressed in maintaining strong ties with the monarchy, which has been beset by protests by mostly Shiite demonstrators demanding democratic reforms amid the “Arab Spring” uprisings that began in 2011. The Al Khalifa ruling family, which professes Sunni Islam, has unleashed violent crackdowns against some protesters.

In response to the crackdowns, Washington has put some sales of military goods on hold, which has angered Bahraini leaders since about 90 percent of the country’s military equipment comes from the U.S.

The inspector general report says that good leadership is critical now because the U.S. Embassy in Manama must strike an “effective balance between military objectives, reform, and human rights.”

But investigators found that Mr. Krajeski rarely has much contact with embassy staff after meeting them upon their arrival, and leaves daily affairs uncertain and disorganized, as employees have little direction on what needs to be done, the report states.

After a series of unpopular public interviews when he first assumed the post in 2011, the ambassador has largely withdrawn from connecting with Bahraini citizens, leaving a feeling of ill will toward him from the general populace.

“There is a desire within the mission for greater engagement by the ambassador,” says the report.

Mr. Krajeski declined to meet with investigators at the embassy during portions of their evaluation, and did not want to discuss several examples of “personal time spent out of the office on workdays,” the report states.

Investigators noted that while the ambassador is “intensely concerned about the security of mission employees,” he did allow the deputy chief of mission to live in an “unsafe red zone” that required “costly security measures to protect her and her family.”

Embassy staff did not return calls and emails seeking comment. The State Department also did not return calls seeking comment.

Mr. Krajeski previously faced criticism during his tenure in Iraq, where he served as a political adviser to U.S. Ambassador L. Paul Bremer in 2003 after the U.S.-led invasion. Mr. Bremer, Mr. Krajeski and others were widely criticized by foreign relations analysts who said they ran a disorganized diplomatic office that did little to help rebuild Iraq or curb the problems that faced U.S. troops.

Kellan Howell contributed to this report.

• Phillip Swarts can be reached at pswarts@washingtontimes.com.

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