Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

US Eyes Reducing Diplomatic Staff in Afghanistan

US Eyes Reducing  Diplomatic Staff in  Afghanistan

WASHINGOTN - US officials have said that Washington is considering reducing its diplomatic footprint in Afghanistan as part of a broader effort to extricate the United States from its costly and deadly 18-year conflict, Foreign Policy reported on April 5.
The State Department is preparing to cut by half the number of US diplomats posted in Kabul in 2020, according to three US officials familiar with internal deliberations as quoted by Foreign Policy.
It may also advance plans to reduce the number of diplomats posted to the US Embassy in Iraq, the report said. 
This comes as the US and Taliban agreed in draft during the Qatar talks in mid-March on foreign forces withdrawal and counterterrorism assurances. 
According to the report, in February, NPR reported on a leaked internal document from the US Embassy in Kabul that called the outpost too big and urged a “comprehensive review” of its size, though the document did not outline the scale of the proposed cuts.
“We are regularly hearing from Africa that we are outnumbered by the Chinese diplomats working on economic or other issues 4 or 5 to 1,” Foreign Policy quoted a senior State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “We cannot continue to concentrate all that money in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
It’s a matter of “where can we best deploy our very limited resources to avoid losing further ground to major competitors who are rising at a speed that we can barely comprehend,” the official said as quoted by Foreign Policy.
The Foreign Policy report says that the State Department does not publicly discuss precise numbers of personnel at embassies or consulates for security reasons, according to a State Department spokesperson.
“The Department regularly reviews our presence at our overseas missions to reflect changing circumstances and our policy goals. While we do not discuss personnel numbers, our embassies engage in regular reviews to ensure that they are appropriately staffed,” quoted by Foreign Policy the spokesperson said in an email response to questions on proposed cuts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The US Embassy in Afghanistan is not a traditional embassy. Reducing the size of the embassy would be a complicated logistical undertaking with significant security considerations, the report said.
“You have to think of the embassy in Afghanistan not just as a place people go to work but more like a college campus … in a very insecure environment,” said Laurel Miller, a former US diplomat who worked on Afghanistan and is now at the International Crisis Group, as quoted by Foreign Policy.
“The embassy is going to have to be ahead of the curve on a military drawdown, not behind the curve on a military drawdown,” she added.
Late last year, conflicting reports emerged about Trump’s decision to withdraw a significant number of troops from Afghanistan. However, the US military officials and diplomats later said they have not received any order to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

US has 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of the NATO’s Resolute Support mission which includes training, advising and assisting the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in their fight against militants. (Tolo news)