Our ’embassy’ in Baghdad opened in 2009. We call it an embassy, but it’s really a small city behind enormous blast walls and protected by thousands of troops and contractors. It’s entirely independent of Baghdad itself, and has its own power plants, water supply and waster water treatment facilities. There are 21 stand alone buildings.
It is larger than Vatican City. It is larger than Disney World. And up to now security has been the responsiblity of the US Department of Defense. That ends soon and all tasks, including security, are to be turned over to the US State Department.
The State Department is racing against an end-of-year deadline to take over Iraq operations from the U.S. military, throwing up buildings and marshalling contractors in its biggest overseas operation since the effort to rebuild Europe after World War II.
While attention in Washington and Baghdad has centered on the number of U.S. troops that may remain in Iraq, they will be dwarfed by an estimated 16,000 civilians under the American ambassador — the size of an Army division.
I certainly understand that appearances matter – a diplomatic presence is less hostile than a military presence. It’s friendlier. And that’s a good thing. But come on . . . !
The list of responsibilities the State Department will pick up from the military is daunting. It will have to provide security . . . in a country that is still rocked by daily bombings and assassinations. State is contracting a security force of about 5,000.
. . . The State Department will operate its own air service — the 46-aircraft Embassy Air Iraq — and its own hospitals . . . 4,600 contractors, mostly non-American, will provide cooking, cleaning, medical care and other services. Rounding out the civilian presence are about 4,600 people scattered over 10 or 11 outside sites.
I wonder what the budget is?