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The Risk of a Lonely Drive: The U.S. Consul General in Guadalajara Describes His Kidnapping

Mexico has often been a dangerous place, particularly in the 1970s with the heightened activity of organized crime syndicates and extremist political factions. Terrence Leonhardy, who served as the Consul General in Guadalajara from 1972 to 1973, was kidnapped and held for ransom by a leftist Mexican guerrilla group for three days. A drive home alone led to his abduction. The U.S. Embassy, the State Department, and Leonhardy’s family all scrambled to get him out before it was too late. Upon his release, Leonhardy was able to identify the perpetrators.  Read more

Counterinsurgency in Eastern Afghanistan — Security

In December 2001, as per the Bonn Agreement signed in reaction to the September 11 attacks, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) created the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for a mission of security and state-building in Afghanistan. The purpose was to train Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), stabilize the government of Afghanistan (GOA), and dispel insurgent groups—namely the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The ISAF established four Regional Commands (RCs) in Afghanistan each commanded by signatories of the Bonn Agreement:  Germany contributed troops in the RC-North; Italy in the RC-West; the United Kingdom, Canada, and the Netherlands rotated command in the RC-South; and the RC-East was commanded by the United States. While this was an international effort, it was clearly led by the United States. Kabul was situated in the RC with the most active counterinsurgency (COIN) efforts, RC-East.  Read more

“We are as Firm as a Monkey Tail” – Baby Doc Duvalier Leaves Haiti

For much of the 20th century, Haiti was under the control of the Duvalier family, headed by Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier until from 1954 to 1971, the country was controlled with an iron fist. On April 21, 1971, power was turned over to the hands of Jean-Claude Duvalier, Papa Doc’s 19-year-old-son. Nicknamed “Baby Doc,” Jean-Claude became the world’s youngest president when he succeeded to the presidency following his father’s death.

While Baby Doc’s rule differed from that of his father’s in certain ways, the Jean-Claude regime was marked by the continued violence against opposition members and the inefficiency that resulted from Baby Doc’s neglect of governmental responsibilities. On February 6, 1986, after a late-night party at his palace, Jean-Claude Duvalier boarded a U.S. C-141 jet which took him and his family to France. Read more

“Apparently I have been kidnapped” — The Death of a Vice Consul

In 1974, Bobby Joe Keesee (in photo),  recipient of the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his actions during the Korean War, kidnapped Vice Consul John Patterson and held him for a $500,000 ransom. While the United States refused to pay the ransom, Patterson’s mother worked with the U.S. government and State Department officials in Mexico City to organize an exchange between the kidnappers and approved personnel. Charles Anthony “Tony” Gillespie Jr., who served as the Supervisory General Services Officer from 1972 to 1975, describes how he and two others drove from Mexico to various points in California with the half a million dollars in cash in a sealed Samsonite cosmetic bag on what turned out to be a futile venture; Patterson had been killed shortly after being kidnapped.  Read more

Counterinsurgency in Eastern Afghanistan — Governance

After 9/11, the United States recognized the instability within made Afghanistan a sanctuary and breeding ground for terrorism — evident in the growing presence of al-Qaeda in the eastern half of the country. U.S. policy pivoted from containment to counterterrorism (CT) and counter-insurgency (COIN) and focused on the three pillars of security, governance, and economic development.

In these excerpts, Kemp discusses the efforts of the coalition in building governance:  the role (and liability of corrupt) local governors in the COIN efforts; the creation of the Independent Directorate for Local Governance (IDLG); the challenges the IDLG faced; and the delicate task of devolution of governance from the coalition to the GOA.

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The Dominican Civil War of 1965

In the period immediately following the assassination of General Rafael Trujillo, known as “El Jefe,” the Dominican Republic was in shambles. The nation was under the control of a three-man junta which, with the help of the United States, was preparing for presidential elections. In 1963, Juan Emilio Bosch Gaviño was elected President of the Dominican Republic; that same year, only a few months after his inauguration, he was ousted from the government by the Dominican military that later established another three-mean junta in Bosch’s place.

In 1965, Francisco Alberto Caamaño Deñó led what was known as the Caamaño Revolt, the opening salvo in the Dominican Civil War. Made famous by the violence that ensued in the streets of Santo Domingo, the Caamaño movement aimed to restore Juan Bosch as President, and return the Dominican Republic to a constitutional democracy. The Caamaño revolt resulted in the deployment on April 28, 1965 of U.S. Marines and troops from the Organization of American States (OAS) to the Dominican Republic to restore peace and stability. The American intervention lasted until September 1966. While Bosch did not return to the presidency, the movement ended with the inauguration of Hector Garcia-Godoy as the Provisional President, who is now remembered for his pivotal role in the return of democracy on the island, and his hand in organizing the 1966 elections.  Read more

Cosa Nostra: U.S. Diplomacy and the Italian Mafia, 1954-1992

The Mafia in American culture is a source of inspiration for books, movies, and television. The Godfather, The Sopranos, a raft of de Niro movies, are just part of a growing genre. But to many Foreign Service Officers working in Sicily in the 1950s and 60s, these wise guys often had a kinder, gentler side and were more good fellas than Goodfellas. This is because, as Rozanne L. Ridgway explains, “They were not to mess with American consular officers. The Mafia didn’t believe that we were really essential to their activities.” Years later, however, the situation was vastly different:  one FSO got a death threat after he turned down a Mafioso for a visa while magistrates who stood up to Cosa Nostra (“Our Thing”) were gunned down mercilessly in the 1990s. (Photo by Paramount/ Getty Images) Read more

The U.S. Ambassador to Panama Reflects on the Fall of Manuel Noriega

For most of the 1980s, Panama was controlled by one man — General Manuel Noriega, who had been trained by the U.S. military at Fort Bragg and the School of the Americas and who since the late 1950s had been on the CIA’s payroll.  Known for his involvement in drug trafficking and money laundering, Noriega was a violent and corrupt leader, nicknamed “Old Pineapple Face” by Panamanians. But towards the end of the 1980s, cracks began to appear on the façade. Key opposition leader Hugo Spadafora had repeatedly accused Noriega of having connections to drug trafficking; in September 1985, he was seized from a bus, decapitated by a death squad and wrapped in a U.S. Postal Service mail bag. President Nicolas Barletta, who was visiting New York City, promised a full investigation, but upon his return, he was forced to resign from the presidency, which was then handed to Eric Arturo Delvalle. Read more

The Khobar Tower Bombings

On June 25, 1996 a truck containing an estimated 5,000-pound bomb drove to the northern perimeter of the Khobar Towers near the city of Dhahran, Saudi Arabia and was detonated, killing 19 members of the 4404th Wing of the United States Air Force and wounding 498 others. The attack, which had been predicted by the State Department and DIA, ultimately proved to be a turning point for U.S. security posture worldwide. Read more

The End of an Era — Handholding Ferdinand Marcos in Exile

Just minutes after returning from his three-year exile, former Philippine Senator Benigno Aquino Jr. was assassinated at the Manila airport on August 21, 1983. During his long career as reformist politician, Aquino had attracted the wrath of authoritarian President Ferdinand Marcos and spent eight years in prison on the unsubstantiated charge of subversion. His death, for which Marcos was blamed, ignited the national People Power Revolution which eventually led to Marcos’ downfall three years later. Adopting Aquino as their martyr and symbol, the Filipino people united behind his wife, Corazon Aquino, in the 1986 elections which Mrs. Aquino won, but where Marcos also claimed victory. On February 25, 1986, rival presidential inaugurations were held, but as Aquino supporters overran Manila and its television station, Marcos was forced to flee. Read more