The Foreign Service Journal, January-February 2020
62 JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2020 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL AFSA NEWS AFSA Panel: U.S. Diplomats as the First Line of Defense Fromweakening ISIS to taking down international child por- nography rings, U.S. diplomats play a large role in protecting Americans back home. During an Oct. 29 AFSA panel discussion at DACOR Bacon House in Washington, D.C., four ambassadors, a Diplomatic Security agent and a Foreign Service officer from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Ser- vice shared tales of how they and their colleagues protect American security. The panel was called “The First Line of Defense: How Diplomats Protect American Security.” Ambassador Greg Delawie, the top U.S. diplomat in Kosovo from 2015 to 2018, noted that on a per capita basis more citizens from Kosovo were joining ISIS in the early 2010s than from any other country. The embassy worked closely with the gov- ernment of Kosovo to devise solutions. For example, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs coordinated with Kosovar law enforcement and prison systems to ensure ISIS fight- ers who returned to Kosovo served prison sentences while not becoming further radical- ized in prison. The effort sig- nificantly reduced the number of jihadis who returned to the battlefield. Kala Bokelman, a Diplo- matic Security supervisory special agent, shared how DS collaborates with foreign governments to fight transna- tional criminal organizations. While stationed in Costa Rica, she worked with local authori- ties to take down an interna- tional child pornography ring that was using the country as a hub for its activities. Leveraging her strong professional relationship with a Costa Rican prosecutor and the expertise of the embassy country team, including fellow DS agents, the political sec- tion and INL, she persuaded the Costa Rican government to not only put stricter laws on the books regarding traf- ficking, but also bring best practices to the apprehen- sion, capture and sentencing of the criminals. Jefferey Austin, a Foreign Service officer with APHIS, shared the agency’s work with Central American governments to eradicate the New World screwworm, the larva of a fly species that infects cattle, jeopardizing America’s herds and ranch- ers’ livelihoods. After having eradicated the fly from the southwestern United States and Mexico with a sterilized fly release program, U.S. Foreign Service officers fromAPHIS, using U.S. funding and in coordina- tion with their Panamanian counterparts, created a biological “barrier” to further northern infestation on the Panama-Colombia border. Amajor element of the vir- tual barrier is a U.S.-built plant, the only one in the world, that breeds the sterilized flies and provides them to the region’s eradication programs. Also speaking at the panel were retired ambassadors John Heffern, Deborah Kay Jones and Charles Ries. In introducing the panel, AFSA President Eric Rubin noted that the role of the Foreign Service as America’s first line of defense will be a focus of AFSA’s messaging in the coming year. A video of the panel event can be found at www.afsa. org/video. n AFSA President Eric Rubin, at podium, introduces the “First Line of Defense” panel at DACOR Bacon House in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 29. Seated from left: Greg Delawie, Kala Bokelman and Jefferey Austin. AFSA/CAMERONWOODWORTH Ásgeir Sigfússon Named Executive Director of AFSA AFSA is pleased to announce that long- time employee Ásgeir Sigfússon has been selected as the asso- ciation’s new executive director. Ásgeir most recently served as AFSA’s director of communications and membership. He brings a deep knowledge of AFSA and its people to the posi- tion and looks forward to keeping AFSA a great place to work and a membership organization that is always highly responsive to its members. A native of Iceland, Ásgeir was born in Copenhagen and moved to the United States in 1997 to begin undergraduate studies at the University of Pennsylva- nia. He arrived inWashington, D.C., in 2001 for a two-year master’s program at George- town University’s School of Foreign Service. In 2003, he joined AFSA as a full-time employee and has been with the association ever since. n Ásgeir Sigfússon.