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Rick Perry blasts diplomats, AFSA returns fire

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(Tom Pennington / Getty Images)

Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry on Monday accused the State Department’s Foreign Service officers of not acting “in America’s best interest.” CNN reported that Perry said:

“I’m not sure our State Department serves us well,” the Texas governor said on a radio program with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. “I’m not talking about the Secretary of State here. I’m talking about the career diplomats and the Secretary of State who, all too often, may not be making decisions, or giving advice to the administration that’s in this country’s best interest.”

Perry said Congressional action might be required to ensure the nation’s diplomatic corps is taking actions that benefit America.

“We need to have a discussion with Congress to make sure that the decisions that are being made are in America’s best interest,” Perry said.

Perry’s problem with the Foreign Service seems to be that they’re not making it clear to Pakistan that they need to get their intelligence service — which is widely suspected to be aiding terrorists and militants in Afghanistan — under control.

The American Foreign Service Association today basically said (in appropriately diplomatic terms) that Perry doesn’t know what he’s talking about. AFSA, which represents Foreign Service officers around the world, issued a statement that said Perry’s comments “reflect a serious misunderstanding of [diplomats'] role in promoting American interests overseas.” AFSA cited the hundreds of diplomats that have been killed in the line of duty in places like Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Beirut, before delivering this line:

[Diplomats] serve at the pleasure of the president, are confirmed by Congress and need the informed support of both branches of government to be effective.

[...] To keep America strong and secure, we need more diplomacy, not less. And we need more, not less, support from our political leaders and citizens for their work to defend and advance our interests abroad.

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State Dept.: Get out of Libya

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All hell is breaking loose in Libya, and the State Department this afternoon ordered non-essential employees and employees’ family members to evacuate the country.

In a travel warning posted online, State also advised any U.S. citizens staying in the country to avoid demonstrations and leave an area immediately if a demonstration begins.

State issued a similar warning for Egypt Feb. 1, as the protests that culminated in Hosni Mubarak’s resignation started to grow and some were concerned about the potential for violence. But the situation in Libya already is much uglier than Cairo ever was.

Hundreds of protesters may have already been killed, and there are reports that helicopters are firing into crowds and the Libyan navy is shelling Tripoli. Al Jazeera reports that two pilots — reportedly “senior colonels” — defected to Malta after refusing orders to bomb protesters. And Moammar Gaddafi may already have fled.

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State orders Egypt evacuation

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Cairo protesters pray in the street in front of riot police Friday. By Peter Macdiarmid, Getty Images

Protests in Egypt demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak are growing by the day, and many are becoming concerned about the potential for violence and lack of security. The State Department today ordered all non-emergency U.S. government employees, and all employees’ families, to leave Egypt. State spokesman Philip Crowley’s statement is below:

On February 1, the Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. Government personnel and their families from Egypt in light of recent events. The Department of State will continue to facilitate the evacuation of U.S. citizens who require assistance. Cairo airport is open and operating, but flights may be disrupted and transport to the airport may be disrupted due to the protests. U.S. citizens in Egypt who require assistance, or those who are concerned that their U.S. citizen loved one in Egypt may require assistance, should contact the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Embassy in Cairo at: EgyptEmergencyUSC@state.gov, or at 1-202-501-4444. Please follow the directions on the Embassy website for all other consular inquiries.

State’s Twitter feed is being updated regularly with advisories and information for Americans in Egypt.

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Supplemental bill to close pay gap for overseas diplomats

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The $106 billion war supplemental bill President Barack Obama signed yesterday will start closing the pay gap between Foreign Service officers in Washington and overseas beginning this fiscal year. The bill for the first time authorizes diplomats abroad to receive the same 23.1 percent locality payment they would receive if they were stationed in the Washington area.

The bill does not spell out how much the State Department and other foreign affairs agencies such as the Agency for International Development should pay Foreign Service officers this year. The American Foreign Service Association suggested closing the gap by one-third — or 7.7 percent — in fiscal 2009, and similar increases in fiscal 2010 and 2011.

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