Last Friday, the State Department announced a couple new websites for the Global Coalition to Degrade and Defeat ISIL out of State and DOD. Via Foggy Bottom’s official spox:
“This webpage has the most up-to-date public information about the coalition, including the latest stats on members and their public support for coalition efforts. Our colleagues at DOD have today also launched their website, defense.gov/counter-ISIL, which has up-to-the-minute information about the military line of this coalition effort, targeting – targeted operations against ISIL terrorists and infrastructure.”
The website includes a list of “over 60 coalition partners” who apparently “have committed themselves to the goals of eliminating the threat posed by ISIL and have already contributed in various capacities to the effort to combat ISIL in Iraq, the region and beyond.” The list is long, but short on specifics on what exactly each of this coalition partner is willing to do/or currently or in the future is doing in the fight to “degrade and defeat ISIL” (what happened to destroy?). It sounds like everybody wants to fly their planes for bombing strikes. But we were listening with our bad ears, so who knows.
One notable exception. The new website mentions “a critical contribution of $500 million by Saudi Arabia to the humanitarian response in Iraq, [that] have been essential.” On October 7, media reports say that Vice President Biden apologized to a top Saudi official for his remarks suggesting that key U.S. allies destabilized Syria by sending arms and money to extremists. “The Turks … the Saudis, the Emiratis, etc.” Uh-oh!
And — since this is officially a war, even if Congress did not have the guts to debate this, we’ve got to give this a name. We had GWOT, but that term had fallen out of favor, so we really need a new name for this war against ISIL.
Below is an F/A-18C Hornet attached to Strike Fighter Squadron 87 prepares to launch from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush in the Persian Gulf to conduct strike missions against Islamic State of Iraq (ISIL) targets, Sept. 23, 2014. Check out DOD’s website on Targeted Operations Against ISIL.
U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert Burck
DOD’s website looks more fleshed out than the State Department’s but makes one wonder why each needed a separate website. This is a united, interagency effort of the U.S. Government with coalition partners, is it not? Is the FBI going to roll out its own Targeted Operations Against ISIS inside the United States separately for those wanna-be jihadists, too? Is DHS/ICE going to have a separate one for its Targeted Operations Against ISIL in all our border crossings and what is DHS/TSA’s plans for the jihadists returning home from their vacations abroad?
Speaking of Iraq — and we apologize in advance if you fall off your chair — here is Foggy Bottom’s clip of the day:
State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki has trouble finding evidence of successes in Iraq | http://t.co/q30trEoDEb
Secretary Kerry Poses for a Photo With General Allen, Ambassador Jones, Assistant Secretary Patterson, and Deputy Assistant Secretary McGurk at Ambassador Jones’ Swearing-in Ceremony From left to right, General John Allen, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. Ambassador-designate to Iraq Stuart Jones, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Anne Patterson, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Brett McGurk pose for a photo at the swearing-in ceremony for Ambassador Jones at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on September 17, 2014. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]
As of this writing, Embassy Baghdad’s website is still showing Robert Stephen Beecroft as the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Ambassador Beecroft was confirmed by the U.S. Senate as the next ambassador to Cairo on June 26, 2014.
Prior to his appointment to Baghdad, Ambassador Jones was the COM at the US Embassy in Jordan. President Obama announced his nomination on May 8, 2014. He was confirmed by the Senate together with Ambassador Beecroft on June 26, 2014. The WH released the following brief bio at that time:
Ambassador Stuart E. Jones, a career member of the Foreign Service, Class of Career Minister, is currently the U.S. Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, a position he has held since 2011. Ambassador Jones previously served in Iraq as Deputy Chief of Mission in Baghdad from 2010 to 2011 and as Governorate Coordinator for Al Anbar Province in 2004. He was Director for Iraq on the National Security Council staff from 2004 to 2005. Ambassador Jones served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the Department of State from 2008 to 2010. Prior to this, he was Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt from 2005 to 2008. Ambassador Jones served as Political Counselor in Ankara, Turkey from 2000 to 2002, and Principal Officer in Adana, Turkey from 1997 to 2000. He served as Legal Advisor at the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, El Salvador from 1990 to 1992 and as Consular Officer in Bogota, Colombia from 1988 to 1989. At the Department of State, he served as Deputy Director for European Regional Political Military Affairs and as Desk Officer for Serbia. Ambassador Jones also was the Executive Assistant to the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations from 1994 to 1996. He received an A.B. from Duke University and a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.
Secretary Kerry’s top Iraq team members also joined Ambassador Jones’ swearing-in ceremony. On September 13, 2014, the State Department announced the appointment of General John Allen as the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk as his deputy senior envoy with the rank of Ambassador.
The United States has asked one of our most respected and experienced military experts, General John Allen, to join the State Department to serve as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. In this role, General Allen will help build and sustain the coalition so it can operate across multiple lines of effort in order to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL. General Allen is a patriot and a remarkable leader. His extraordinary career in the military speaks for itself. Whether as the top commander of NATO’s ISAF forces in Afghanistan during a critical period from 2011-2013, or as a deputy commander in Anbar during the Sunni awakening, or as a thinker, scholar, and teacher at the U.S. Naval Academy. And he has done significant public service out of uniform since he returned to civilian life. His commitment to country and to service has really been enduring.
Most recently we worked together very closely in designing new approaches to meet the long-term security needs of the state of Israel, and I could not be more pleased than to have General Allen coming on board now fulltime at the State Department.
He’ll be joined by a terrific team, including Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Brett McGurk, who will serve as General Allen’s deputy senior envoy with the rank of Ambassador. Not only has Brett been back and forth to Baghdad and Erbil almost every month this past year, but he has also spent a number of years over the past decade posted in Iraq as a top advisor to three different Ambassadors. Brett is one of our foremost experts on Iraq, and he will be integral to this effort’s success. Both General Allen and Ambassador McGurk will begin work immediately.
Hello SPE/GCCISIL! Not sure if this will be a separate office and how many staffers it will have. The Special Envoys and Reps according to the official org chart report directly to the Secretary. As of this time, we could not locate General Allen in the organizational chart or the telephone directory. Ambassador McGurk (doesn’t he need confirmation?) is still listed as a DAS for Iran/Iraq.
Today, the State Department issued an update to its August 8 Travel Warning for Iraq noting the departure of a “limited” number of staff from our posts in Baghdad and Erbil to the Consulate General in Basrah and Amman, Jordan.
Map via CIA.gov (click on image to see larger view)
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens against all but essential travel to Iraq. Travel within Iraq remains dangerous given the security situation. The Embassy in Baghdad and the Consulate General in Erbil remain open and operating, but the Department of State has relocated a limited number of staff members from the Embassy in Baghdad and the Consulate General in Erbil to the Consulate General in Basrah and the Iraq Support Unit in Amman. The Embassy in Baghdad and the Consulate General in Erbil remain open and operating. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning dated August 8, 2014, to note the departure of some staff from the Consulate General in Erbil. The ability of the Embassy to respond to situations in which U.S. citizens face difficulty, including arrests, is extremely limited.
U.S. citizens in Iraq remain at high risk for kidnapping and terrorist violence. Methods of attack have included roadside improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including explosively formed penetrators (EFPs); magnetic IEDs placed on vehicles; human and vehicle-borne IEDs; mines placed on or concealed near roads; mortars and rockets; and shootings using various direct fire weapons. These and other attacks frequently occur in public gathering places, such as cafes, markets and other public venues.
Numerous insurgent groups, including ISIL, previously known as al-Qa’ida in Iraq, remain active and terrorist activity and violence persist in many areas of the country. ISIL and its allies control Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and have captured significant territory across central Iraq and continue to engage with Iraqi security forces in that region. In early August, the threat to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) increased considerably with the advance of ISIL towards Kurdish areas.
Due to the potential of political protests and demonstrations to become violent, U.S. citizens in Iraq are strongly urged to avoid protests and large gatherings.
Three days ago, President Obama ordered U.S. aircraft to drop humanitarian supplies to tens of thousands of Yezidi refugees fleeing the terrorists of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in northern Iraq. The president also ordered U.S. combat aircraft to be ready to launch airstrikes to protect Americans in Erbil, Iraq.
On August 8, the Pentagon announced that at approximately 6:45 a.m. EDT, the U.S. military conducted a targeted airstrike against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorists.
Two F/A-18 aircraft dropped 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a mobile artillery piece near Erbil. ISIL was using this artillery to shell Kurdish forces defending Erbil where U.S. personnel are located. The decision to strike was made by the U.S. Central Command commander under authorization granted him by the commander in chief. As the president made clear, the United States military will continue to take direct action against ISIL when they threaten our personnel and facilities.
Pentagon releases indicate that to date, U.S. military aircraft have delivered more than 52,000 meals and more than 10,600 gallons of fresh drinking water to the displaced Yezidis seeking refuge from ISIL on the mountain.
USCG Erbil which remains open is headed by Joseph Pennington, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who assumed his duties as Consul General in Erbil in July 2013. Prior to his arrival in Erbil, Mr. Pennington served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Prague, Czech Republic (2010-13) and held the same position in Yerevan, Armenia (2007-10).
USCG Basrah is headed by Matthias Mitman, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service who assumed post as Consul General in Basrah in September 2013. He previously served as the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) at the U.S. Embassy in Tegucigalpa, Honduras from 2011-2013 and as the Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow from 2009-2011. He was the Director for Iraq at the National Security Council from 2006-2008 with responsibility for U.S. economic policy in Iraq and international engagement. Before joining the NSC staff, Mr. Matthias was assigned to U.S. Embassy Baghdad as Senior Economic Advisor.
That did not take long. On June 25, the SFRC cleared President Obama’s nominees for Iraq and Egypt. Today, the U.S. Senate confirmed the nominees for those two posts:
Stuart E. Jones, of Virginia, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Iraq; Confirmed: 93-0
Robert Stephen Beecroft, of California, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Arab Republic of Egypt (voice vote)
Yesterday, the Senate also confirmed the nomination of our next ambassador to Djibouti:
Thomas P. Kelly III, of California, a Career Member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Djibouti.
QUESTION: Is it just a chance to have some members of the embassy work remotely?
MS. PSAKI: It is a situation, Lucas, where we evaluate the security and – on the ground. And at our posts and embassies around the world we made a decision that the right step here was to relocate some of our staff to other parts of Iraq and to a supporting neighboring country and so that’s the step we took and that’s why we took it.
QUESTION: And —
QUESTION: — hold on. Just to follow up —
MS. PSAKI: But let me reiterate one thing: Our embassy staff and our embassy is open and operating. Our diplomatic team at the highest levels is engaged closely with the Iraqis and that will continue.
QUESTION: But it just has a fifth of the amount of personnel as it did before.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into specific numbers, but again, a range of these employees are temporarily relocating – temporarily – to some other areas in Iraq, and again a close neighboring country.
MOCK EMBASSY EVACUATION | A landing craft air cushioned assigned to Beach Master Unit 1 arrives to offload vehicles supporting a mock embassy evacuation during Rim of the Pacific 2008. RIMPAC is the world’s largest multinational exercise and is scheduled biennially by the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Participants include the United States, Australia, Canada, Chile, Japan, the Netherlands, Peru, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Walter Pels
Today, the State Department issued a new Travel Warning for Kenya. It further announced that the Embassy is “relocating some staff to other countries” but that “the Embassy will remain open for normal operations.” The relocation is not specifically called “authorized” or “ordered” departure. The announcement only says “some staff”and it is not clear whether these are family members or non-essential personnel they are evacuating relocating. We take it this is not considered an evacuation either? Is this a new trend? When can we see this in the DSSR? (Also see US Embassy Kenya: Isn’t That Travel Warning Odd or What?).
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Kenya. The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Kenya. U.S. citizens in Kenya, and those considering travel to Kenya, should evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing and recently heightened threats from terrorism and the high rate of violent crime in some areas. Due to the terrorist attack on June 15 in Mpeketoni, in Lamu County, the U.S. Embassy instituted restrictions on U.S. government personnel travel to all coastal counties – Mombasa, Kwale, Kilifi, Lamu, and the coastal portion only of Tana River County.
Based on the recent changes in Kenya’s security situation, the Embassy is also relocating some staff to other countries. However, the Embassy will remain open for normal operations. This replaces the Travel Warning of May 17, 2014, to update information about embassy staffing and current travel recommendations.
The U.S. government continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western, and Kenyan interests in Kenya, including the Nairobi area and the coastal cities of Mombasa and Diani. Terrorist acts can include suicide operations, bombings – to include car bombings – kidnappings, attacks on civil aviation, and attacks on maritime vessels in or near Kenyan ports. Although the pursuit of those responsible for previous terrorist activities continues, many of those involved remain at large and still operate in the region. Travelers should consult the Worldwide Caution for further information and details.
We should note that the State Department’s Family Liaison Office does not have any current guidance for employees on temporary relocationdue to an official non-evacuation.
Makes one wonder how these employees on temporary relocation are assisted by the government. Were they all issued TDY orders to other countries? Were they sent on early R&Rs? How about their family members?
See — an evacuation status is authorized by the Under Secretary of State for Management in 30-day increments, up to a maximum of 180 days, per DSSR 623f. When an evacuation is declared, a Subsistence Expense Allowance (SEA) is given to official evacuees. “Transitional separate maintenance allowance” TSMA is also granted to assist employees with additional costs they incur when their family members are required to occupy temporary commercial housing while establishing permanent housing in the U.S. following an evacuation and the conversion of the post to an unaccompanied status.
If this is in fact a “temporary relocation” with staffers sent on TDYs,there would be no evacuation orders, and there would be no evacuation allowances paid to staffers or family members relocated to other countries. The 180-day clock will not starting running.
If this is called a “temporary relocation” but staffers and/or family members are issued evac orders, granted evacuation allowances and the 180 day clock is on, then this is in fact an evacuation even if it’s not called that; and we’ll need a new State Department dictionary.
The New Embassy Compound (NEC) in Baghdad was the most expensive construction in the world in 2009. Although a fixed amount is hard to come by, it is estimated that the construction cost amounted to approximately $700 million. In 2012, WaPo reported a $115 million embassy upgrade. If we add that and all other State Department capital projects in Iraq from FY2011, we would have to add approximately $411 million to the cost of the USG footprint in Iraq. Despite the recent rightsizing exercise, it remains the largest, and the most expensive diplomatic mission in the world.
The 104-acre U.S. Embassy in Iraq is the largest embassy in the world not just in terms of size at 420,873 square meters, but also personnel at 5,500 (estimated Jan 2014 headcount) and operational cost at $3.23 billion in FY2012. (Note: It is not the largest site in terms of diplomatic properties as the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center (BDSC) compound is located on a 350-acre facility adjacent to Baghdad International Airport). A quick comparison — one of our smallest embassies, the US Embassy in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea is 1,208 square meters, so 348 US Embassy Malabo NECs would fit into Embassy Baghdad. As well, the New Embassy London is 54,000 square meters, so about 7 1/2 of them would fit into Embassy Baghdad.
It may be that in a couple of years, with the ongoing construction of the New Embassy London and New Embassy Islamabad (each may hit the $1 billion mark), Embassy Baghdad will no longer be the most expensive embassy in the world, but for now, it is still the post with the mostest.
In 2009, the OIG inspectors identified the number of factors that have contributed to the size of this Embassy:
(1) implementation of a civilian assistance program of over $24 billion;
(2) a wide-ranging capacity-building program covering most key ministries in the Iraqi National Government and, through the PRTs, all provincial governments;
(3) the legacy of running the country and then working hand-in-glove with the Iraqis as they assumed more responsibility for funding their own development;
(4) the need to coordinate with the U.S. military in practically all aspects of the Embassy’s responsibilities; and
(5) the inability to have host-country LE staff provide the support and services that they do in almost all other embassies in the world. Also, the fact that employees can take three separate 22-day long rest and recuperation trips (R&Rs) means that staffing has to be larger to ensure full coverage.
One could argue that a combination of the above reasons are also driving the size and growth of our embassies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
According to the OIG, Embassy Baghdad’s security budget in 2012 was $698 million. It notes that “As long as the staff cannot move safely and independently outside compound walls, maintaining a robust security apparatus and meeting the life support needs of the mission staff will require significantly more financial and personnel resources than at other U.S. missions.”
In 2013, the OIG inspectors warned that the large Iraq footprints, expensive to guard and maintain even after the rightsizing exercise, will strain support for diplomatic facilities worldwide when special appropriations that fund them end.
On June 16, 2014, the President transmitted a report notifying the Congress that up to approximately 275 U.S. military personnel are deploying to Iraq to provide support and security for U.S. personnel and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Today, AFPS reports that President Obama announced plans to send up to 300 military advisers to Iraq to help the government in Baghdad combat a rapid advance by Sunni-led insurgents.
On June 15, the State Department issued a statement that Embassy Baghdad “remains open and will continue to engage daily with Iraqis and their elected leaders.” Also that the embassy is reviewing its staffing requirement as it anticipates additional U.S. government security personnel in light of ongoing instability and violence in the country. It also announced that some Embassy Baghdad staff will be “temporarily relocated – both to our Consulate Generals in Basra and Erbil and to the Iraq Support Unit in Amman.”
Map via CIA World Fact Book
CNN is now reporting that between 50 and 100 U.S. Marines and U.S. Army personnel have arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
The Pentagon statement on June 15 says that “The temporary relocation of some embassy personnel is being facilitated aboard commercial, charter and State Department aircraft, as appropriate.”
The official statements use “temporary relocation” to describe this movement of personnel, which includes relocation to Amman, Jordan. Is this an attempt to avoid the negative connotation associated with the term “evacuation.” Similarly, in early June, US Embassy Tripoli went on drawdown of personnel without ever announcing whether it went on evac status (See Did US Embassy Tripoli Go on “Sort of a Drawdown” Without Going on Evacuation Status?).
The official statement on Embassy Baghdad also says that “a substantial majority of the U.S. Embassy presence in Iraq will remain in place and the Embassy will be fully equipped to carry out its national security mission.” The mission was expected to reduce its headcount to 5,500 in January 2014. If that in fact happened earlier this year, we can still expect a remaining staff of at least 2,750 plus whatever number you consider amounts to a “substantial majority.”
Below is the State Department statement:
The United States strongly supports Iraq and its people as they face security challenges from violent extremists. The people of Iraq have repeatedly rejected violent extremism and expressed their desire to build a better society for themselves and for their children.
The Embassy of the United States in Baghdad remains open and will continue to engage daily with Iraqis and their elected leaders – supporting them as they strengthen Iraq’s constitutional processes and defend themselves from imminent threats.
As a result of ongoing instability and violence in certain areas of Iraq, Embassy Baghdad is reviewing its staffing requirements in consultation with the State Department. Some additional U.S. government security personnel will be added to the staff in Baghdad; other staff will be temporarily relocated – both to our Consulate Generals in Basra and Erbil and to the Iraq Support Unit in Amman. Overall, a substantial majority of the U.S. Embassy presence in Iraq will remain in place and the Embassy will be fully equipped to carry out its national security mission.
We advise U.S. citizens in Iraq to exercise caution and limit travel to Anbar, Ninawa, Salah ad-Din, Diyala, and Kirkuk provinces; make their own contingency emergency plans; and maintain security awareness at all times.
Below is the DOD statement via the American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 15, 2014 – At the State Department’s request, the U.S. military is providing security assistance for U.S. diplomatic facilities in Baghdad, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today.
In a statement, Kirby said a small number of Defense Department personnel are augmenting State Department security assets in Baghdad to help ensure the safety of U.S. facilities.
“The temporary relocation of some embassy personnel is being facilitated aboard commercial, charter and State Department aircraft, as appropriate,” Kirby added. “The U.S. military has airlift assets at the ready should State Department request them, as per normal interagency support arrangements.”
Our military airlift asset is at the ready. Depending on what happens next, we might be hearing more about a noncombatant evacuation operation (NEO). This gave us an excuse to revisit DOD’s joint publication on NEOs:
The State Department (DOS), acting on the advice of the ambassador, will determine when US noncombatants and foreign nationals are to be evacuated. When unexpected violence flares up or appears imminent and communications with the DOS are cut off, the ambassador may invoke such elements of the plan and initiate such actions as the situation warrants.
During NEOs the US ambassador, not the combatant commander (CCDR) or subordinate joint force commander (JFC), is the senior United States Government (USG) authority for the evacuation and, as such, is ultimately responsible for the successful completion of the NEO and the safety of the evacuees. The decision to evacuate a US embassy and the order to execute a NEO is political.
And — we don’t even have an ambassador in Baghdad. On June 11, Ambassador Robert S. Beecroft, still listed as our U.S.ambassador to Iraq went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) for his confirmation hearing as our next ambassador to Egypt. The nominee for Embassy Baghdad, Ambassador Stuart E. Jones (previously of US Embassy Jordan) also went before the committee on the same day. Read his testimony here(pdf).
The Beecroft and Jones nominations as far as we could tell have yet to make it out of the SFRC. The State Department’s Key Officers list published this month includes John P. Desrocher as DCM for Embassy Baghdad. Mr. Desrocher previously served as the U.S. Consul General in Auckland, New Zealand. In 2010, he was the Director of the Office of Iraq Affairs at the State Department.
The Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iraq and Iran Brett McGurk tweeted on June 13: “In #Baghdad, have been meeting intensively with leaders across the political spectrum and conferring with our national security team in DC.”
Embassy Baghdad has not listed a chargé d’affaires on its website; we don’t know who is in charge of the mission. Post has not responded to our inquiry as of this writing.
The U.S. Embassy advises U.S. citizens resident in Iraq of ongoing large-scale military action between insurgent and terrorist groups and Iraqi military forces in Mosul, the capital of Ninewah province. Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) forces have reportedly taken control of the city, including the airport. There have been recent large-scale actions taken in cities in Salahadin province as well and fighting continues in Anbar province. We strongly encourage all U.S. citizens to avoid these areas, to review the existing Travel Warning for Iraq, and take appropriate measures to ensure their safety if travel to Iraq is necessary.
The United States is deeply concerned about the events that have transpired in Mosul over the last 48 hours where elements of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIL) have taken over significant parts of the city. The situation remains extremely serious. Senior U.S. officials in both Washington and Baghdad are tracking events closely in coordination with the Government of Iraq, as well as Iraqi leaders from across the political spectrum including the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), and support a strong, coordinated response to push back against this aggression. We also commend efforts by the KRG to respond to the ongoing humanitarian crisis. The United States will provide all appropriate assistance to the Government of Iraq under the Strategic Framework Agreement to help ensure that these efforts succeed.
US Mission Iraq includes our posts in Erbil, Kirkuk and Basrah.
Meanwhile Al Jazeera is reporting that an estimated half a million people are fleeing Iraq’s second largest city, Mosul, after fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an al-Qaeda splinter group, seized the city.
The Guardian reports that jihadists have seized the Turkish consulate in Mosul and kidnapped the Turkish Consul along with 24 staff members as residents fled the city. Yesterday, Isis fighters have reportedly also abducted 28 Turkish truck drivers.
Hurriyet Daily News says that Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu who cut short his U.S. visit has defended Ankara’s decision to keep its consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul open despite the approach of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants.
“The risk of leaving was higher than the risk of staying in. Clashes were happening street by street. Taking such a sensitive convoy [the consulate staff and their families] out was a risk,” Davutoğlu told Turkish journalists at New York John F. Kennedy Airport before leaving for Turkey.
“All parties around the world should know that if something bad happens to our citizens, the perpetrators will be responded to strongly. Nobody should test Turkey,” Davutoğlu added.
According to Hurriyet, the Foreign Ministry also confirmed that at the time of the raid, 49 members of the consulate, including the consul general, and an unknown number of their family members were in the compound. Separately, 31Turkish truck drivers, not 28 as previously reported, are being kept by the same group at a power plant in Mosul.
In Kirkuk, Kurdish military leaders vow to defend the province’s Kurdish areas “with the last drop of our blood.”