The United States said Tuesday that it planned to downsize its embassy in Iraq, the largest US diplomatic mission in the world, in hopes of saving money after the end of the war.
The New York Times, quoting unnamed officials, said the United States would slash the 16,000-strong staff by up to half in a sign of declining influence and quality of life after US troops left in late 2011.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland declined comment on the article’s specifics but confirmed that the United States was looking to “right-size” the enormous embassy in Baghdad.
“I think what we have here is an embassy structure that was built for a different time and that relied a lot on extensive contracting for a whole range of reasons, some of them historic, some of them security-related,” Nuland told reporters.
“Our judgment now is that we can adapt that for today’s Iraq, do our diplomatic business just as well and just as rigorously, but far more efficiently,” she said.
Nuland said the United States would look at hiring more Iraqi employees at the embassy and using fewer contractors, who can be “very expensive.”
The move marks a major change in planning for the State Department. US Ambassador James Jeffrey less than a year ago outlined plans to boost the size of the embassy in preparation for the departure of troops and the expected growing influence of neighboring Iran.
President Barack Obama, an opponent of the controversial 2003 invasion that ousted strongman Saddam Hussein, removed the last US troops after Iraq did not agree to plans to keep a residual force.
The New York Times said US diplomats have since been facing lengthy delays in approval for visas and have been struggling to arrange appointments with officials in Iraq, which has been mired in political crisis.
The newspaper also said that diplomats’ living conditions had deteriorated without the troops, with the embassy running short of sugar for coffee and being forced to ration chicken wings enjoyed by some staff.
Asked about the newspaper’s account of food conditions, Nuland criticized “whinging that was inappropriate” by some diplomats posted in Baghdad.
American, Italian and Russian blast off for ISS
US, Italian and Russian astronauts blasted into space Saturday, headed for the International Space Station, in a launch coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing.
Alexander Skvortsov of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, NASA's Andrew Morgan and Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency set off on a six-hour journey to the orbiting science lab from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1628 GMT.
A NASA TV commentator hailed a "textbook launch" minutes after blastoff in "sweltering" weather in Baikonur, where daytime temperatures reached 43 degrees Celsius on Saturday.
Megan Rapinoe trashes ‘disgusting’ Trump for his ugly racist tweets in CNN interview
In an interview with CNN's Van Jones that will air on Saturday night, U.S. Women's soccer champion Megan Rapinoe condemned President Donald Trump's racist attacks on four progressive congresswomen of color.
"It's disgusting, to be honest. To say it's disappointing is ... it doesn't even come close," said Rapinoe. She added, "The more that we just are upset about it and don't accept that kind of behavior from all sides, then the better place we're going to be."
Trump has faced escalating criticism in the wake of his tweet that Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) ought to "go back" to where they came from if they disagree with his agenda (three of them were born in the United States). The controversy escalated when attendees of his rally in Greenville, North Carolina chanted "Send her back!" about Omar.
Conservative suggests Trump’s racist rhetoric will incite worse than ‘send her back’ chants: ‘One shudders to wonder’
In a column for the Washington Post, conservative Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Kathleen Parker said the refusal by Republican lawmakers and the evangelical community to condemn Donald Trump's racist rhetoric is paving the way for something far worse than mere "send her back" chants.
Under a headline that bluntly states, "Those who don’t condemn Trump’s racism are complicit in his bigotry," Parker gets right to her opinion of the president, writing, "Going out on a limb here: President Trump is a racist. And a sexist. And a xenophobic nationalist. Among other things. Not to name call or anything."