US Mission Iraq: No Iraqi Visas Issued to USG Security Personnel Since December?
DiploPundit April 16, 2012
The Iraq Travel Warning dated January 19, 2012 says that “the ability of the Embassy to respond to situations in which U.S. citizens face difficulty, including arrests, is extremely limited.”
Apparently the “extremely limited” response even includes the issuance of visas for USG security personnel in Iraq.
In our mailbox is the following email:
“No visas have been issued to security personnel since December and there is no straight answer coming from the Department of State or the Ministry of Interior.”
One of our correspondents is concerned that this situation “will result in loss of life” as their “ability to protect continues to be compromised.”
The State Department’s current Travel Warning says that“The U.S. government considers the potential threat to U.S.
government personnel in Iraq to be serious enough to require them to live and work under strict security guidelines. All U.S. government employees under the authority of the U.S. Ambassador must follow strict safety procedures when traveling outside the Embassy. State Department guidance to U.S. businesses in Iraq advises the use of protective security details.”
If so, how does the “strict security” guidelines and “strict safety procedures” work if the protective security details are missing due to the sticky wheel on the visa bus?
On February 8, 2012 WaPo reported that the US Embassy Baghdad compound was locked down for nearly all of December out of security concerns, and the vast majority of U.S. personnel rarely leave its confines.
“U.S. trainers for middle- and senior-level police officials, located for convenience across the street from Iraq’s national police headquarters and police academy, have been unable to cross that street without heavy security and have largely ceased any outside movement.”
One can only hope that they are not in permanent lock down as they’re rightsizing. We understand that the US Mission in Baghdad was expected to have 16,000 personnel. About 2,000 are reportedly diplomats and 14,000 are private security and life support contractors.
How much of the expected 5,000-7,000 security personnel made it to Iraq before the visa clamp down came down in December? And if true that no visas had been issued to USG security personnel since December, how is that impacting the mobility and security of our embassy personnel? Has it been in lock down since the military left?
We have reached out to the US Embassy Baghdad on the visa issue last week and will update this post if we ever get a response. We say if because we’ve had very limited success in getting a response even from their Press Office, except on the few occasion when somebody there had a personal blog to plug in.
If you’re reading this from Baghdad, we’d like to hear if you’ve been forced to telecommute from the bunker due to limited availability of personal security support.
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