U.S. Embassy in Baghdad Has Plans to Double in Size

baghdad embassyThe U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is planning to double its ranks as it takes over a host of missions for the military there, according to America’s No. 2 diplomat in Iraq.

“If Congress gives us the money we are asking for, this embassy is going to be twice the size it is now. It’s not going down, it’s getting bigger,” said Robert Ford, the deputy chief of mission in Baghdad, in an exclusive interview with The Cable.

As the military continues to drawdown in Iraq, the U.S. Embassy there is taking over many of the “critical missions” that the military has been heavily involved in for years, and fundamental changes in the American role in Iraq are coming. Moreover, the State Department has a very different approach to various issues than many in the military who have served there — leading to some concerns about the handoff among senior military leaders.

One of the chief missions being handed over is the training of the Iraqi police. The Obama administration has prepared a budget request for that program that would vastly increase the number of people working on police training. That request, if granted, could increase the overall U.S. diplomatic presence in Baghdad from around 1,400 to more than 3,000 total personnel, including contractors, said Ford.

“My biggest problem here is figuring out where are these people going to live, how are we going to get the security for them, how are we going to get food for them, and how are we going to get their mail delivered,” he said.

The Baghdad embassy is already the largest in the world and bursting at the seams with people and equipment.

Regarding State’s takeover of the Iraqi police training mission, the embassy has worked out the details with the military but the result will look much different from the current mission.”It is different qualitatively from what the military has been doing,” said Ford.

The new police training will focus more on “middle management,” to include human resources, operational planning, and building institutional capacity, “rather than showing a new recruit how to wear a uniform and how to shoot a gun,” Ford added.

Another major change coming will be the reduction and eventually transformation of Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq, the expeditionary units that provide various types of assistance in each and every Iraqi province. Currently there are about 600 civilian and 400 military personnel in PRTs, but when the military guys leave, the PRTs will cease to exist in their current form.

The U.S. will reduce the number of PRTs in Iraq from 22 to 16 by August, according to Ford. After August, the PRTs will shift their focus to more consular and diplomatic duties, he said.

“We understand that there is a utility in keeping a robust diplomatic engagement,” he said. “If we get the budget, we will have diplomatic presences in strategically vital provinces. They will have some of the same functions, but we’re not going to call them PRTs.”

“They Are Not Actually Doing the Research”

Some senior military commanders in Iraq and experts back in Washington are concerned that the changes planned by the embassy risk sacrificing U.S. leverage and influence in Iraqi issues. They also allege that State hasn’t done the analytical spadework to properly understand the implications of the changes they are proposing.

“I think there is a self-limiting quality to how U.S. Embassy Baghdad is functioning,” said Maj. Gen. Robert Caslen, the recently returned commander of all multinational forces in Iraq’s northern region, in an interview with The Cable. “They are not actually doing the research to say this is what we need and if you don’t give me this, this is what we are going to have to take away and here is the effect it will have on the effort.”

“Rather they are going through things and saying this is what we think the piece of the pie is we’re are going to get and here is some stuff we could do for that money. That’s all fine and good, but if you don’t actually accomplish the mission in the end, then you actually fail. What good is that?”

For example, Caslen said the PRTs role in actually helping Iraqis in rural areas with reconstruction is vital and abandoning it in any way would be a mistake.

“The task that [the Iraqis] value more than anything is reconstruction and that clearly is a PRT task,” Caslen said. Regarding plans to alter the PRTs away from the reconstruction mission, he said, “That course of action puts our future relationship at risk … We definitely need the PRTs.”

Ford rejected the notion that the embassy hasn’t done the research and planning needed to understand the implications of the moves. The embassy has worked out a detailed joint campaign plan with Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top military commander in Iraq, for the way forward, he said.

An Iraq expert in Washington who travels frequently to the region said that the different approaches to Iraq between the embassy and some in the military reflect their different institutional cultures.

“State as an organization historically has been about interactions between normal states and about traditional diplomacy. Historically, it’s not an expeditionary agency; it’s not in their DNA,” said the Iraq expert. “So there’s always been this tendency in Iraq to try to make the relationship more normal in a way that fits into State’s traditional way of doing business.”

Ford’s view is that it’s simply time for the United States to start taking its hand off the bicycle seat and let the Iraqis learn to fend for themselves.

“The Iraqi government, little by little, is growing more capable itself,” said Ford. “Therefore, the things that we need to do must adjust. The Iraqis can and should do more for themselves, and frankly, they want to.”

Source:

Foreign Policy Magazine

By Josh Rogin

27 Comments

  1. Jason says:

    I wonder how many additional jobs that would bring to the Foreign Service, the article indicates that contractors would be part of the additional 1600 jobs added to the embassy.

    • Jovenalfa says:

      When I was in Baghdad two and a half years ago, it was unsafe for an American to go awynhere near Haifa Street, even though it is a key shopping district. Those damned insurgents! Denying Americans our religious duty of shopping!So, for the past two and a half years, the level of violence has remained so high we need an esc sorry, SURGE to stop it. Who was in charge of our failed efforts during all of that time? Should we belive any tales of success they might now tell us? Why? It apparently is safe enough now for the Iraqi leadership to make a staged appearance, at least. I hope to learn soon that ordinary people–even American reporters–can travel about the city with a modicum of safety. So, staged visits by Iraqi leaders equate to having Americans walking around? I guess that means the Iraqi government is most certainly definitely positively absolutely not staged by Americans, right?

    • Your posting really straightened me out. Thanks!

    • Me and this article, sitting in a tree, L-E-A-R-N-I-N-G!

    • If you want to get read, this is how you should write.

    • Alakazaam-information found, problem solved, thanks!

  2. Sumir says:

    I wonder if you can get posted in a place like Baghdad right into the Foreign Service. I speak Arabic, so I assume I will inevitably be sent to Iraq at some point, but I don’t think I’d want to go in first time around. From what I hear, you’ll need some experience to do well in an embassy like that.

    • Mohammed says:

      We should have done what I was trnaied as an intel officer in combat training to do . we should have formulated a plan to drive straight into Baghdad, topple it, secure it, rope Saddamm, take him to a war crimes tribunal immediately, secured the city completely, etc. At the same time we shoud have previously built and compiled a very real Coalition of the Willing of several hundred thousand allies, (not a propanda/ghost force) and secured the entire border, to keep anyone from leaving, and anyone from enterintg. Thats where we failed. Sure, we drove relatively unscathed straight to Baghdad, took it over, but then we sat there quaqmired in a cesspool that got more and more stagnant and infectious. In the meantime, Al Queda and all its factions seized the opportunity to rush the border to the new battleground, a battleground we created stupidly.Alpha, you’ll disagree for your own reasons, but the truth is you identify your target, you create a plan to take him out (and you first take out his command structure so as to create chaos when you do hit him hence Ranger Spec. Ops ); you take out the target. All the while, you secure your perimeter (which is what we didn’t do), and you have an exit strategy,,, two fold, the first how we get out when we did what we were sent to do, and secondly, but hopefully not necessary,,,, if the mission got fucked up and we need to get out. Just some thoughts Jon

    • Asingo says:

      Give me a break .how can you honestly print this crap Con man?? I got a soltuion for you lady, pass the word to all the 18-30 year olds to stop being terrorists .then everything will quiet down, you can get your job back, and our boys can come home. I bet she is wondering about the good old days of mass graves and gassing under Saddam .boy nothing ever stays the same does it?

    • Wham bam thank you, ma’am, my questions are answered!

    • Mighty useful. Make no mistake, I appreciate it.

    • I’m not quite sure how to say this; you made it extremely easy for me!

    • We need more insights like this in this thread.

    • You’ve captured this perfectly. Thanks for taking the time!

    • That’s an intelligent answer to a difficult question xxx

    • Hats off to whoever wrote this up and posted it.

    • Fabio says:

      Well Milt, it’s a bit of a stretch connimibg the “Aussie Exodus” with the “Iraqi Imbroglio”, but you’ve managed to wriggle it in somehow.What you forgot to point out is nobody has EVER wanted to migrate to Baghdad – before, after or during the American presence, the Shah’s regime, the Hussein hegemony, or any other time in the hundreds of years that Iraq has existed. Dictatorships such as the Shah’s and Sadaam’s only flourish in a culture already made biddable by a penchant for morbid religiosity, and if Iraq ever does get it together (which could take another thousand years, given the built-in problems), historical perspective might well show the American incursion as a mere blip in Iraq’s history, perhaps even something akin to a mouse trying to rape an elephant. Iraq’s problems are systemic, religious and endemic, and here’s where we might agree (though for different reasons) – we are wasting our time being there.But as for putting Iraq and Aussie in the same post – come on Milt, let’s leave Iraq to the Iraqis …and Aussie to the Kiwis ! cheers :)

    • Asep says:

      the same thing: That he was treated rahetr well, all things considered. He joked that it was sort of a vacation where all he did was watch TV and play cards with his captors. But I knew the context of his story was that 1. He was amazed that such heartless folks could appear so banal and actually be non-abusive, and 2. If anyone even hinted that maybe those folks weren’t so bad, he’d thoroughly explain that he knew they’d kill him in an instant without regret if he tried to escape, or if the family didn’t even bother to try to negotiate the ransom and would just flat-out refuse to pay. His point in saying that was that yes, he wasn’t treated badly at all, but that we shouldn’t read too much into the kindness — which, in reality was just a lack of abuse — because it was really just a waiting period for them, and that he was really just a pawn, an object on which they didn’t have to expend energy being abusive. My point is this: Let’s see what context Ms. Carroll provides later. Right now, it’s too early to see whether she’s truly sympathetic to her kidnappers, or simply expressing the same surprise that my mom’s cousin did. It’s possible that she’s — to coin a phrase — completely been Stockholmed. Or, it’s possible that she’ll go in the completely opposite direction and say, ‘wait a minute, I only said I was treated well. I’m not apologizing for them’.

    • To, że Basso nie znalazł się na pudle, to nie zawód. Był w dobrej formie, ale nie był najlepszy. Pana obecność na TdF okazała się mu niezbędna, choćby na podjeździe pod Telegraph. Cieszę się, że szczęśliwie udało się Wam dojechać bez kraks. One też niestety decydowały o klasyfikacji. Czekam na kolejne wyścigi, na podjazdy i na obrazki jak „Sylwek ciągnie pod…”

  3. Tecla says:

    We should have done what I was tiernad as an intel officer in combat training to do . we should have formulated a plan to drive straight into Baghdad, topple it, secure it, rope Saddamm, take him to a war crimes tribunal immediately, secured the city completely, etc. At the same time we shoud have previously built and compiled a very real Coalition of the Willing of several hundred thousand allies, (not a propanda/ghost force) and secured the entire border, to keep anyone from leaving, and anyone from enterintg. Thats where we failed. Sure, we drove relatively unscathed straight to Baghdad, took it over, but then we sat there quaqmired in a cesspool that got more and more stagnant and infectious. In the meantime, Al Queda and all its factions seized the opportunity to rush the border to the new battleground, a battleground we created stupidly.Alpha, you’ll disagree for your own reasons, but the truth is you identify your target, you create a plan to take him out (and you first take out his command structure so as to create chaos when you do hit him hence Ranger Spec. Ops ); you take out the target. All the while, you secure your perimeter (which is what we didn’t do), and you have an exit strategy,,, two fold, the first how we get out when we did what we were sent to do, and secondly, but hopefully not necessary,,,, if the mission got fucked up and we need to get out. Just some thoughts Jon

  4. So true. Honesty and everything recognized.

  5. Arran says:

    Mr. Mead,As you can see from the responses to you post here and other piorveus posts of yours, the days of the U.S. playing the sugar daddy to the world are quickly losing popular support and none too soon. And there’s another things that needs to be watched out for. As things go side-ways in Iraq and Afghanistan which they are sure to do, every native in those rat holes who as much as smiled at an American will be screaming for a ticket here. And what will you say then, Mr. Mead, that they deserve entry into the US because they didn’t invite us into their countrie? Sorry but that won’t sell. Those kind of silly days are over, too.

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