@StateDept Spox on Afghanistan: “This is not a full evacuation. This is not — “

 

 

Via State Department Briefing/August 12, 2021:
The State Department spox made the following points about the US Embassy in Kabul:

— Our embassy in Kabul has been on ordered departure since April 27th, and we’ve been evaluating the security situation every day to determine how best to keep those serving at our embassy safe. This is what we do for every diplomatic post in a challenging security environment.

— … we are further reducing our civilian footprint in Kabul in light of the evolving security situation. We expect to draw down to a core diplomatic presence in Afghanistan in the coming weeks. In order to facilitate this reduction, the Department of Defense will temporarily deploy additional personnel to Hamid Karzai International Airport.

— The embassy remains open and we plan to continue our diplomatic work in Afghanistan. The United States will continue to support consular services, and that includes the processing and operations of the Special Immigrant Visa program, and will continue to engage in diplomacy with the Afghan Government and the Afghan people. Additionally, we will continue our focus on counterterrorism.

— To date, Operation Allies Refuge has brought more – has brought to the United States more than 1,200 Afghans who worked side by side with Americans in Afghanistan. That includes interpreters and translators, along with their families. Additional flights will begin landing daily, and you’re going to see the total number grow very quickly in the coming days and the coming weeks.

QUESTION: Can you move to the second part of the question? Will it remain open at its location or is it going to the airport?

MR PRICE: We are always evaluating the situation on the ground. We are planning for all contingencies. This was a contingency, in fact, that we had planned for. So I’m not going to entertain hypotheticals. I’m not going to go into what additional contingencies may arise, but it’s very important to say that our embassy remains open and our diplomatic mission will endure.
[…]

QUESTION: Ned, it’s not a hypothetical. Is the embassy staying at its current location or is it moving locations to the airport?

QUESTION: Or anywhere else.

MR PRICE: Christina – Christina.

QUESTION: Or anywhere else?

MR PRICE: The embassy remains open in its current location.
[…]

QUESTION: Ned, my last one and I’ll let everyone else go because I know – yeah. But my last one is: The people who are being drawn down, the staffers who are leaving, are they flying out commercially or is it that that’s what the military is going in to do?

MR PRICE: Well —

QUESTION: To take – to take them out.

MR PRICE: The military will be there to help effect an orderly and a safe reduction in our personnel. I do expect that the military will help with these relocation operations. But as we know, Hamid Karzai International Airport does remain open. Commercial flights continue to take off and land at the airport. So the military is not the only way in or out of Afghanistan.
[..]

QUESTION: Can I – so you said that today is a continuation of what has been happening, but it appears very clearly to be a preparation for a full evacuation of all U.S. diplomats from Afghanistan. So what is your response to that?

MR PRICE: My response to that is that’s not true. This is not a full evacuation. This is not —
[…]

QUESTION: Ned, I’ll give you points for the old college – giving it the old college try on this. But when you talk about the message that this sends as enduring partnership, in what language does turning your tail and sending 3,000 troops in to – and you say it’s not an evacuation, but you lost that point when you said that the military, the 3,000 troops are going to be flying these drawn-down staffers out. It’s —

MR PRICE: I did not say that there would be 3,000 troops.

QUESTION: Okay. Sorry. You didn’t. Others have said that that’s the number that’s going in. But that the military, the U.S. military, is going to be – is going to be taking these people out, that is an evacuation. And I’m very cognizant of the difference between a drawdown where people leave commercially or if they drive out on their own. That’s not what this is. So I don’t understand the message of “enduring partnership” when you’re basically leaving.

 

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US-Taliban Inks Deal, Afghanistan Bolts Over Prisoners Release, Taliban Attacks Resume #72Hours

 

 

NOTE: Right hand photo below is posted on state.gov’s Flickr account here but Taliban negotiator Stanikzai was not identified. Caption only says “Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo participates in a signing ceremony in Doha, Qatar, on February 29, 2020. [State Department photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]”.

 

Taliban Attacks German Consulate, Building Previously Abandoned by USG For Being “Too Dangerous”

Posted: 2:04 am ET
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In December 2009, the US Embassy in Kabul announced that Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry and the Foreign Minister of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta, signed a new agreement under which the United States would lease an historic 1930’s hotel in Mazar-e-Sharif for use as the new U.S. Consulate. At that time, the United States has agreed to invest approximately $26 million to renovate the Mazar Hotel facility so that it may be used as an office building and housing for consulate employees (see US Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif Moving Forward and DIY Home Renovation Opportunity in Mazar-e-Sharif.

After signing a 10-year lease and spending eventually more than $80 million on a site envisioned as the United States’ diplomatic hub in northern Afghanistan, American officials were reported to have abandoned their plans, deeming the location for the proposed compound too dangerous according to WaPo in May 2012. The WaPo report cited an internal memo written by Martin Kelly, then acting management counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul saying that the facility was far from ideal from the start:

The compound, which housed a hotel when the Americans took it on, shared a wall with local shopkeepers. The space between the outer perimeter wall and buildings inside — a distance known as “setback” in war zone construction — was not up to U.S. diplomatic standards set by the State Department’s Overseas Security Policy Board. The complex was surrounded by several tall buildings from which an attack could easily be launched.[…] Responding effectively to an emergency at the consulate would be next to impossible, Kelly noted, because the facility does not have space for a Black Hawk helicopter to land. It would take a military emergency response team 11 / 2 to 2 hours to reach the site “under good conditions,” he said.”

Also this:

In December (2011), embassy officials began exploring alternative short-term sites for their diplomatic staff in northern Afghanistan. A Western diplomat familiar with the situation said the United States has sought, so far in vain, to persuade the German and Swedish governments to sublet it. The diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the matter, said European diplomats have found the prospect laughable.”

Read more US Consulate Mazar-e-Sharif: $80 Million and Wishful Thinking Down the Drain, and Not a Brake Too Soon.

In June 2013, the German Consulate opened at the old Mazar Hotel in Mazar-e-Sharif.

Last Thursday, a suicide bomber rammed a truck into the German Consulate in Mazar, killing at least six civilians and wounding 120.  The Telegraph reported that Afghan special forces have cordoned off the consulate, previously well-known as Mazar Hotel, as helicopters flew over the site and ambulances with wailing sirens rushed to the area after the explosion. On November 12, the US Embassy in Kabul announced that it will be closed for routine services on Sunday, November 13 as a temporary precautionary measure.

We don’t as yet know if this property with a 10-year USG leased was sublet by the German Government or purchased by the Germans from its owners. We will update if we know more. There were local casualties but there were no reported casualties for German consulate workers. We understand that this was a reasonably secure building after all the fit-out and upgrade work was done prior to the USG suspending the project in 2012 but that the site is hemmed in by other structures and too close to high-traffic venues like the Blue Mosque. Then Ambassador Ryan Crocker decided that the location was too risky when he arrived in Afghanistan and so the USG abandoned this building.