US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) and the Voice of America (VOA) leaders in the $800 million federal government media operation had weeks if not months to get USAGM staff and dependents in Afghanistan to safety. Sheer incompetence of USAGM leaders, who previously have shown a blatant disregard for security measures and were sanctioned for it by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), has resulted in reportedly about 550 vulnerable people being stranded under the Taliban rule. These senior USAGM and VOA executive leaders should resign immediately. These are the main points of the latest commentary by The Federalist who is a former agency employee but prefers to post anonymously because of his many connections with former and current USAGM employees.
When The Best USAGM Leaders Can Do Is Sheer Incompetence
A Commentary by The Federalist
The horrid debacle in Afghanistan, triggered by a precipitous withdrawal decision and execution by the Biden administration is over.
There is plenty of blame to go around, starting with Mr. Biden himself for his intractable and inflexible decisions on the sudden withdrawal and dealing with the Taliban Islamic extremists.
Whether anyone is held materially accountable remains to be seen as this administration has demonstrated a propensity to deflect blame and place it on others.
Officials of the US Agency for Global Media (USAGM) should not escape and should be held fully accountable. At least several people should resign immediately. They include the following:
• Kelu Chao, acting USAGM chief executive officer
• Yolanda Lopez, acting Voice of America (VOA) director
• Their senior deputies and the USAGM chief strategy advisor.
Even though the bios of the other senior USAGM and VOA executives no longer appear on the USAGM official government website, everybody at the agency knows that they work very closely with the USAGM CEO.
We would be more than happy to review the internal memos on how these individuals conducted their official duties during this fiasco. But it is unlikely that these deliberations will ever see the light of day. We know they make decisions as a collective. We know they will push off responsibility to others when they themselves should shoulder the responsibility themselves. But that is contrary to their nature.
And now others are paying the price for having these people running the agency.
We are not talking about one or two, five, 25, or even 50 people being left behind.
It is estimated that USAGM personnel inside Afghanistan are numbered to be 550, probably including dependents.
It is believed that many of them in some aggregate numbers are still trapped inside Afghanistan.
On August 30, 2021, Kelu Chao issued “Message from the acting CEO.” Here it is in its entirety:
As you are aware, the situation in Afghanistan over the past several days has escalated tragically. Our hearts go out to the loved ones of U.S. servicemen and all who died and were injured in Thursday’s terrorist attacks, and to the many others impacted – especially our USAGM colleagues.
We have been making every effort through all possible means to coordinate safe passage for staff and their families. The explosions shattered confidence in airport evacuation safety and have delayed anticipated departures for many. We will continue to look at all options in the days and weeks ahead.
Our resolve is strong and our commitment to the safety of our colleagues is unwavering.
End of announcement.
We will be more than characteristically blunt:
Message to Kelu Chao, VOA Acting Director Yolanda Lopez, and their senior deputies and advisors:
The failure is one of gross incompetence on the part of Ms. Kelu Chao and the rest of the “Leadership Team” on the Third Floor of the Cohen Building.
This announcement is nothing more than a kumbaya wailing. Let’s examine the following statement:
“We have been making every effort through all possible means to coordinate safe passage for staff and their families. The explosions shattered confidence in airport evacuation safety and have delayed anticipated departures for many. We will continue to look at all options in the days and weeks ahead.”
“We will continue to look at all options in the days and weeks ahead.”
Message to Ms. Kelu Chao and her deputies and advisors:
You have run out of options.
You should have ordered and conducted an orderly evacuation from Afghanistan several months or weeks ago.
There are no more “days and weeks ahead.” What?!?
The US Embassy in Kabul has been vacated.
One would have hoped the US had a plan to blow it up but that is unlikely in what we’ve seen in the disorder that characterizes this debacle. More than likely, the US Government left behind a treasure trove of sophisticated technology just as significant as the arms caches left behind at the abandoned Bagram Air Base.
Gross incompetence on this order should not be excused nor ignored.
Also consider this:
“Our resolve is strong and our commitment to the safety of our colleagues is unwavering.”
This is total nonsense. Big, tough talk from leaders of the USAGM and VOA bureaucracy who have likely never gone face-to-face with a Taliban terrorist holding an AK-47 with his index finger on the trigger guard.
Yeah. Really tough talk.
That means nothing.
The Taliban knows who they are dealing with. They have nothing but contempt for USAGM.
Statements like the most recent one from USAGM leaders remove any modicum of credibility from this agency. The only thing missing from the statement is posturing about “supporting freedom and democracy” which events in Afghanistan have proven to be preposterous.
All those senior leaders responsible for USAGM’s sheer incompetence that has resulted in hundreds of agency staffers and dependents being stranded under the Taliban rule should resign immediately. The Biden administration should immediately appoint a competent temporary executive who is not tainted by years of security failures and give her or him emergency powers to try to salvage whatever can be salvaged from the mess the current USAGM and VOA leadership has created. If the right person is selected, such a move could save many lives, but there are no guarantees. One thing is certain, keeping the status quo at USAGM and VOA will allow the disaster to get worse, with possibly deadly consequences.