US may cut size of Iraq embassy

The US government is may cut the size of its embassy in Iraq, which is the largest and most expensive diplomatic mission, the BBC reported.

According to a state department spokeswoman, the cut in the US embassy’s staff would reduce the cost. It currently employs about 2,000 diplomats and 14,000 contractors. Ambassador James E. Jeffrey and other senior State Department officials are contemplating the size cut, officials in Baghdad and Washington told The New York Times.

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The embassy, located in a $750 million building, in Baghdad was considered necessary to aid a postwar Iraq as it finds its way to democracy, along with establishing normal relations between the two countries. The 104-acre embassy compound has a $6 billion annual budget, along with its own airline and three hospitals, the Washington Post reported. It also imports almost all of its food.

However, Americans have become frustrated with the increased levels of violence in Iraq and the fact that they are mainly confined to the embassy due to high security concerns, The Times reported. Americans are now unable to interact and work with ordinary Iraqis, the point of the of the mission.

“The place was a relic before the paint was dry on it,” Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), who chairs the Appropriations subcommittee on State Department expenditures, said, the Washington Post reported.

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But Patrick F. Kennedy, the State Department’s undersecretary for management, told the Washington Post that the White House has not asked him to decrease the size of the embassy and there’s no indication the budget will be cut.

“We’re now in the fifth or sixth week since transition” following the final departure of US military forces, Kennedy said, the Washington Post reported. Now Washington and Baghdad officials are assessing whether the mission was “right-sized.” Kennedy dismissed The Times’ report that the embassy was going to make up to 50 percent in cuts, the Washington Post reported.

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