Deployment Stories: Traveling to Sri Lanka's Eastern Province

Posted by Claire Sneed
May 5, 2009

About the Author: Claire Sneed serves in the State Department's Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization.

My name is Claire Sneed. I’m a conflict prevention officer for the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization. In January 2008, the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction was asked to assist the Embassy in Sri Lanka to carry out an interagency conflict assessment for the eastern province. I led a team of five people from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of Defense and our office to assist the country team in Colombo to carry out this assessment and develop a strategy for stabilization that used all of the U.S. Government resources that we could bring to the table.

During the three-week assessment, we went out to the eastern province. We traveled around and talked to conflict-affected populations, to local leaders, to government officials, to NGOs and other representatives of the international community who are working on this issue. We gained sort of a common understanding of what some of the challenges were and developed sort of a shared understanding of what needed to be done in order to bring stability to the region and help the region move toward, you know, peace and development.

For me, it was a really interesting experience working on an interagency process and learning a little bit more about how the U.S. Government and the different agencies of the U.S. Government think and approach and see stabilization challenges. And it was very rewarding to see the different agencies sort of come to a consensus about what we understood and what we saw and what we felt needed to be done.

The conditions on the ground in Sri Lanka at that time were fairly volatile. We were stopped at checkpoints fairly often. Although we were able to stay in hotels, we weren’t able to stay out in the east quite as long as we might have liked, just because the situation was so precarious. That said, it was very important for us actually to get out into the region, rather than just staying in Colombo and gathering information there. And so we were fortunately able to get around and actually meet some of these populations and see the conditions in which they were living and the kind of security environment that they were facing.

In the future, I think that this type of deployment is extremely useful and this function is very useful in that it enables again this sort of shared perspective to emerge among the different parts of the U.S. Government that are involved and that can bring resources to bear in a reconstruction and stabilization environment. And so I would welcome an opportunity to participate in future assessments and planning missions like this one.

Related Entries: Watch Ambassador Herbst discuss the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization and the Civilian Response Corps or read more Deployment Stories.

Comments

Comments

Andrew B.
|
Delaware, USA
May 6, 2009

Andrew B. in Delaware writes:

As a young college student working towards an ultimate goal of serving my country with the U.S. Foreign Service, I really enjoy these deployment stories and other videos that are posted. Hearing the experiences of FSOs first hand truly helps me work with confidence towards this goal. Thanks for posting this!

Anonymous
|
United States
May 6, 2009

A. in U.S.A. writes:

Suggestion for a blog theme on DipNote: It would be interesting to read about upcoming programs which would require public support: Financial, human, or other specific manning requirements.

This would help some of us make some decisions about where we would like to contribute, and to look for specific announcements seeking our assistance.

Examples:
- What kind of manning numbers are you looking for to support the ongoing civilian efforts in Afghanistan; and which specific career fields/experts do you want assistance?

- What kind of training, education, or other background experience do you require to support the future U.S. overseas manning missions?

Thank you

Kenneth
|
Canada
May 9, 2009

Kenneth in Canada writes:

Most of the world's problems today are those created by politicians. Let's consider if there were no troubles in the present day world these politicians would be out of a job.

At the present time there are so many stories about the Sri Lankan (Ceylon) war between the majority Sinhala population and the minority Tamil people.

Ceylon got its INDEPENDENCE from Britain in 1948 and everything seemed so calm. But underneath it all was the Sinhala resentment towards the Tamils who had been working for the British colonial administration since Ceylon was captured from the Dutch by the British.

No one has ever mentioned the wholesale slaughter of Tamils in Colombo, Ceylon in 1958, which by the way was the cause of the Tamil rebellion. A British shipping company used its empty cargo ships to carry Tamils away from Colombo to safety in the North. The Tamils as a minority had no other choice but revolt against their Sinhala oppressors. So all those who condemn the Tamils should go back to where it all began.

But to all this turmoil add the part of the Sinhala Buddhist monks that urged the Sinhala to drive out the Tamils. Too many people have an opinion without any real experience and that is also another problem.

I may not be a diplomat, but I was in Ceylon off and on for very many years. There I learned how and what made the present day situation boil over. I had close friends among the minority Burgher (Dutch) population, Sinhala and Tamils so I learned about the situation first hand, without any prejudice on my part.

When passing judgment on the Tamils please look at the overall situation and understand it. I am very glad to be able to give people an overview of the whole problem of Sri Lanka.

George
|
Australia
May 15, 2009

George in Australia writes:

It is very disappointing that Secretary Clinton is adopting a double standard in Sri Lanka's war against Tamil Tiger terrorists. For over 25 years Sri Lanka has had to put up with the scourge of suicide bombers and other attacks that have resulted in thousands of civilians killed.

In Afghanistan the U.S. has declared it does not want its military to fight with one hand tied behind its back. Why does it insist that Sri Lanka does so? Are LTTE terrorists more favoured than the Taliban? If so, for what purpose?

Clinton's latest admonition that an IMF loan to Sri Lanka is "not appropriate" at this time is deplorable. The American trait of double speak still persists.

Radhakrishnan
|
India
May 15, 2009

Radhakrishnan in India writes:

Dear Sir/madam,

Srilankan government atrocides are really horriple. They didnt respect international community respect.. srilankan government is just doing as its own wish. They abtained several tamil civilion youths and keep on killing them.

We request obama government to step in and send his troops to srilanka to save tamil civilians from srilankan government.

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