The Cable

Names: Brookings' Amr to USAID

Hady Amr, the founding director of the Brookings Institution Doha Center, will join the United States Agency for International Development, The Cable has confirmed.

Amr has been appointed as deputy assistant administrator in USAID's Middle East bureau. That bureau is currently led by George A. Laudato, who serves as special assistant to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah on the Middle East. No one has been nominated for the assistant administrator position in the Middle East bureau, a post that requires Senate confirmation. Politico reported that Special Envoy George Mitchell's chief of staff, Mara Rudman, was slated to move to a top USAID post related to the Middle East, which could mean that she will be nominated as assistant administrator.

Over his long career as an author and analyst on Middle East diplomacy, Amr has managed projects sponsored by the World Bank, the Ford Foundation, the United Nations, USAID, and others, according to his bio on the site of his consulting firm, Amr Group. During the Clinton administration, he helped establish the Near East and South Asia center at the National Defense University. In 2004 he authored "The Need to Communicate: How to Improve U.S. Public Diplomacy with the Islamic World."

You can follow him on Twitter here.

The Cable

Obama Senate ally 'frustrated' with White House inaction on Afghanistan oversight

A Democratic senator with strong ties to President Barack Obama is calling out the White House for failing to deal with a huge problem regarding oversight of the war in Afghanistan.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), an early supporter of Obama's presidential run, has been calling for the sacking of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) Arnie Fields since the summer of 2009. But in an interview with The Cable, she says she can't get any answers from the White House on the issue and she's not at all happy about it.

"I'm frustrated. It's not going as quickly as it should. I've been trying to move this person out of the position for over a year now," McCaskill said. "The White House needs to act. That's where the buck stops. It is way past the time when they should have removed him."

Fields has come under heavy criticism for running an oversight office that is failing to effectively monitor the allocation of billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer funds that are being invested in infrastructure in Afghanistan. A memo circulated by Hill staffers earlier this year outlined the shortcomings of several of the organization's audits. McCaskill, along with Sens. Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Susan Collins (R-ME) wrote a letter last December calling for someone to look into SIGAR's operations.

Then, a July report by the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE), which oversees the overseers, recommended that the Justice Department take away SIGAR's ability to carry firearms and make arrests because they lacked basic standards of investigation and management.

In reciting the case against Fields, McCaskill referred directly to the CIGIE report. "Forget about the politicians, forget about the elected officials, the independent council of auditors looked at their office and said that it is so bad that they shouldn't even be allowed to do law enforcement activities. Well, that's a problem," McCaskill said.

But despite numerous public and private pleas, McCaskill has been unable to convince the White House to move faster on replacing Fields. "I don't think the administration is reacting appropriately or aggressively as it should," McCaskill said. "The consequence is that there's important work that's not getting done well. We should have our very strongest [inspector general] overlooking Afghanistan right now."

When Obama was running for office, McCaskill was one of his campaign's leading champions, and was even rumored to be on Obama's short list for vice president. Back then, Obama was extremely appreciative.

"There are very few people who are closer to me, who I have relied on more for counsel or advice," Obama said about McCaskill in June 2008. "Should I be successful, [McCaskill] will be somebody who has the utmost access to the Obama administration."

But that was then, and this is now. McCaskill said she has met with White House staff several times on the matter but the only thing they've told her is "We're working on it."

A GOP Senate aide close to the issue told The Cable that recently, the work product coming out of the SIGAR office has been getting slightly better, but the organization has recovered only about $2 million in misspent funds, despite having spent about $30 million on its activities.

"That's a pretty poor return on investment," the aide said.

The United States has committed $51 billion to Afghanistan reconstruction since 2001, and that endowment will reach $71 billion by the end of 2011, according to the AP.

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