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Chief of mission (COM)


In military operations, the term Chief of Mission (COM) refers to the top-ranking U.S. government official in a foreign country, usually the U.S. ambassador. The COM is responsible for coordinating all U.S. government functions within that country, including diplomatic and security efforts. In the absence of an ambassador, another senior diplomat may be designated as the COM.

Key Takeaways

  1. Chief of Mission (COM) refers to the principal officer responsible for all U.S. governmental functions within a foreign country, including military-related activities and communications with the host government.
  2. The COM is usually the U.S. Ambassador, who coordinates and oversees various departments and agencies that are involved in the implementation of U.S. foreign policy, and ensuring the safety and security of U.S. citizens and government personnel overseas.
  3. In military operations, the Chief of Mission plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the interests, missions, and operations of the U.S. military are appropriately aligned with U.S. foreign policy objectives and in compliance with host nation laws, regulations, and customs.


The term Chief of Mission (COM) is important in military operations because it refers to the senior diplomatic representative of a country, usually an ambassador, who is responsible for coordinating and overseeing all aspects of diplomatic engagements, including military and civilian affairs within a host country.

The COM plays a vital role in ensuring that the lines of communication and cooperation between the military and the diplomatic corps are maintained, thereby facilitating effective execution of foreign policy objectives.

Furthermore, the COM acts as a liaison between the host country and the foreign nation, making certain that both nations’ interests are upheld and enhancing mutual understanding.

In essence, the Chief of Mission’s critical role in diplomatic and military operations underpins the overall success of any mission and fosters international relations.


The Chief of Mission (COM) serves a critical role in coordinating and overseeing military operations conducted within a host nation, particularly those relating to national security and foreign policy matters. The purpose of a COM is to ensure that the execution of these operations is in line with the objectives and priorities set out by the host nation’s government and the United States. Appointed by the President of the United States and acting as the principal representative, the COM is responsible for managing all elements of the diplomatic mission effectively.

This encompasses the development of policy recommendations, supervising the work of various federal agencies, as well as facilitating cooperation and communication between the host country and the United States. In fulfilling their purpose, COMs maintain an integrated and cohesive approach to bilateral relationships. Their responsibilities involve continuous evaluation of the military and political environment within the host nation, providing guidance to U.S.

government personnel, and coordinating operational activities that directly affect U.S. policy objectives. Through these actions, the Chief of Mission actively supports the cultivation of strong and productive relationships between countries, contributing to the successful implementation of security and diplomatic initiatives.

By fostering collaboration among different agencies and organizations, the COM has a direct impact on the effectiveness of operations and the preservation of strategic interests of the United States.

Examples of Chief of mission (COM)

Operation United Assistance: In 2014, the Chief of Mission (COM) in Liberia was Ambassador Deborah Malac. In response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the United States deployed military personnel as part of Operation United Assistance to support Liberia’s efforts to contain the epidemic. Ambassador Malac played a crucial role in coordinating the US government’s interagency response and liaising with Liberian authorities, UN agencies, and other international partners.

US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan: Ross Wilson currently serves as the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, acting as the Chief of Mission (COM). In this capacity, he oversees the coordination of US military operations and civilian efforts in Afghanistan, working closely with NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, the Afghan government, and other international partners to enhance stability and counter-terrorism efforts in the region.

US Embassy in Bogotá, Colombia: During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the United States supported Colombia’s efforts against drug trafficking and organized crime through Plan Colombia. Ambassador Anne W. Patterson served as the Chief of Mission (COM) in Colombia from 2000-2003, coordinating US assistance to the Colombian government and military. Ambassador Patterson oversaw the delivery and tactical use of military aid and equipment, such as helicopters and intelligence support, while collaborating with Colombian authorities to carry out counternarcotics missions and strengthen the rule of law.

Chief of Mission (COM) FAQ

What does Chief of Mission (COM) mean?

Chief of Mission (COM) is the title given to the senior leader of the diplomatic mission of a country. The COM is responsible for overseeing the entire mission and its staff, and is the ambassador or charge d’affaires, depending on their diplomatic rank.

What are the responsibilities of a Chief of Mission?

The Chief of Mission is responsible for ensuring the smooth functioning of the diplomatic mission, representing their country’s interests, and overseeing embassy staff. This includes formulating strategies, implementing policies, and reporting back to the home government on issues of importance.

How is a Chief of Mission appointed?

Chiefs of Mission can be appointed or designated by a country’s president or head of state, following which it is confirmed by the Senate. In some cases, a career diplomat from the foreign service may be appointed as COM.

What is the difference between an Ambassador and a Chief of Mission?

An Ambassador is a specific rank in diplomacy, whereas Chief of Mission is the title given to the highest-ranked officer at an embassy or consulate. The Ambassador may also serve as the COM in most cases, but if an Ambassador is unavailable or not present, the Charge d’Affaires assumes the role of COM.

What is the role of the Chief of Mission in military operations?

In military operations, the Chief of Mission serves as the primary point of contact between the host country and the United States or other foreign military elements. They ensure coordination and communication between the two parties, and provide guidance on foreign policy objectives and adherence to international law.

Related Military Operation Terms

  • Embassy Functions
  • Diplomatic Representation
  • Country Security
  • Inter-agency Coordination
  • Consular Services

Sources for More Information