Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. - Cyril Connolly
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Al Qaeda in Algeria
I can't tell you how upsetting today's news out of Algeria was. As many of you know, my good friend Bob is the US Ambassador to Algeria, and although ironically, he was sent back to Iraq last week on a three week mission to "break in" and orient the new US Ambassador there, we were all vastly relieved and proud when he and his wife, A., finally left Baghdad to take up their posts in Algiers last fall.

All of their emails and letters since arriving in North Africa have been filled with the peace, beauty, openness, and happiness of the Algerian society and its people. They are in direct contrast to their first post there in the eighties when the violence was all too real and omnipresent.

A.'s missives from her post to re-establish the US Embassy in Tripoli, Libya, have been equally optimistic and happy, although she has also been "redeployed" to Karachi, Pakistan for now. They are both committed to strengthening US relations in Algeria and the entire North Africa region over the next three years, and until today, it looked as if it was going to be a rewarding and fulfilling adventure. A personal and career dream come true: a place and time where they could really have a personal impact on a country and its people, instead of trying to piece together a hopeless puzzle like Iraq, so thoroughly broken that Humpty Dumpty's army couldn't repair it - much less an occupying force - no matter their good intentions and obvious talents.

After today's attacks, the first real violence in years in an otherwise peaceful country, the snake of terrorism rears its ugly head again. I'm waiting to hear if Bob was urgently recalled from Iraq.

I am still hoping to visit Bob and A. in Algiers at the Embassy next year. Their reports of the peace and utter beauty of a country and its people in a part of the world that for so long has been off limits to most Americans is enticing to say the least. A's last email about the Roman ruins in Tripoli, a city lost to most Americans for decades, and therefor unknown to most, is just one of the proverbial carrots at the end of the stick for me.

I would love to see the region through their experienced eyes. Libya, Algeria and Morocco.

Even Morocco thwarted a reputed Al Qaeda suicide bombing today. After today, I worry that I may be part of yet one more generation that will miss the cultural and geographic beauty of Algeria and Libya, and sadly, one of the first to also miss Morocco.

UPDATE: Whew!!!I'm attaching this late breaking email and updating the time. They always sound non chalant - even when mortar fire is attacking their compound - but here's the latest from A.:

Broadsheet, Good morning from Karachi, where I’m well protected (our Consulate is so much better fortified since I was here in the late ‘90’s) and really enjoying this assignment as head of the administrative section and the only other senior officer here besides the Consul General. It’s the kind of role I’d envisioned when I took the job.

I copy below the routine message that went out from our embassy in to all American citizens after yesterday’s bombs. It’s a message that embassies around the world get out as soon as possible after any event which causes us to reassess our security posture. The bombs were approximately two and seven miles from the embassy. Some of the car alarms at the embassy did go off; I remember in the bad old days that we would feel the ground shake when there was a big car bomb downtown. Robert is still in Baghdad, and is not changing his travel plans. His second in command in Algiers is doing a great job.

Just wanted to let you know that we’re safe and to say hello.

11 April 2007 Embassy of the United States of America

American citizens in or traveling to Algeria are also urged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S.Embassy in Algiers. Americans can register in person at the Consular Section or online at
posted by Broadsheet @ 12:02 AM  
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