25 September 2023

UNITED STATES: US to cut some embassies

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A significant reduction in the United States’ diplomatic presence in Afghanistan and Iraq is under active consideration by the White House, US officials say.

The officials said the State Department was preparing to cut by half the number of diplomats posted in the US Embassy in Kabul (pictured) by 2020.

They said the Department might also advance plans to reduce the number of diplomats posted to Iraq, as Washington winds down its war footing in the Middle East and South Asia to prepare for what it calls an era of “great-power competition” with China and Russia.

Once obscure diplomatic outposts, the US Embassies in Kabul and Baghdad ballooned into the largest and costliest diplomatic missions in the world following American military interventions in those countries.

Diplomats make up only a portion of Embassy personnel in both Kabul and Baghdad, which includes officials from other Federal Agencies, contractors, and security staff.

Earlier this year a leaked internal document from the Embassy in Kabul called the outpost too big and urged a “comprehensive review” of its size, although the document did not outline the scale of the proposed cuts.

The State Department’s presence in Afghanistan pales in comparison with that of the US military, but the Embassy in Kabul, along with the Embassy in Baghdad, makes up a disproportionate part of the State Department’s budget and personnel compared with embassies in other parts of the world.

Some diplomats believe it’s time to shift those resources elsewhere.

A senior State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the US presence in Africa was dwarfed by that of China.

“We cannot continue to concentrate all that money in Afghanistan and Iraq,” the official said.

Washington, DC, 3 April 2019

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