Small Wars Journal

U.S. Eyes Plans to Cut Diplomatic Staff in Afghanistan, Iraq

U.S. Eyes Plans to Cut Diplomatic Staff in Afghanistan, Iraq by Robbie Gramer - Foreign Policy

Officials say it's time to shift diplomatic resources to countering China and Russia.

President Donald Trump’s administration 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, U.S. officials tell Foreign Policy.

The State Department is preparing to cut by half the number of U.S. diplomats posted in Kabul in 2020, according to three U.S. officials familiar with internal deliberations. It may also advance plans to reduce the number of diplomats posted to the U.S. Embassy in 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.


The deliberations coincide with U.S. peace talks with the Taliban and assessments on how to withdraw U.S. military forces from Afghanistan.


Once obscure diplomatic outposts, the U.S. embassies in Kabul and Baghdad ballooned into the largest and costliest diplomatic missions in the world following U.S. military interventions there.


Diplomats comprise only a portion of embassy personnel in both Kabul and Baghdad, which includes officials from other federal agencies, contractors, and security staff…

Read on.


From our article above:


“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,” said 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 to whether President Trump is serious, or not, when it comes to such things as engaging in meaningful competition with our adversaries -- in Africa and/or elsewhere -- consider the following from this March 11, 2019 Foreign Policy piece:  


President Donald Trump’s fiscal year 2020 budget proposal, released on Monday, calls for a 23 percent cut for the international affairs budget. The budget proposal would hit international organizations hardest, imposing up to $1 billion in cuts for United Nations activities and slashing more than 30 percent in humanitarian assistance. It also appears to dismantle the State Department’s chief refugee protection bureau.

By defending the budget, Pompeo is demonstrating that “he is prepared to enfeeble his own department in the face of congressional opposition,” Eric Schwartz, the president of Refugees International, told Foreign Policy.

The proposal drew fierce backlash from Democratic lawmakers and some foreign-policy experts, as well as a cadre of former top military commanders who argue continued cuts to diplomacy and foreign aid harm U.S. national security.