US Evacuates $750 Million Baghdad Embassy
Sunday, June 15, 2014 04:21 PM
By: Newsmax Wires
The United States is beefing up security at its large, palatial embassy in Baghdad and will move workers from behind its massive blast walls and out of the Iraqi capital, the U.S. State Department said Sunday.
Expanded military support for security at the embassy will include fewer than 100 soldiers, a U.S. official told Reuters on Sunday. The enhanced security personnel will include Marines and other soldiers, a U.S. military official said on condition of anonymity.
A substantial number of the more than 5,500 embassy workers will be included in the evacuation, The New York Times reported.
The State Department said U.S. citizens in Iraq were advised to exercise caution and limit travel in five provinces including restive Anbar in the west and Kirkuk in the north.
The moves came as Iraqi government forces battled to hold off insurgents with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, the Sunni militant group that has seized control of parts of northern Iraq and eastern Syria.
The State Department said the Baghdad embassy was reviewing staffing requirements but that a "substantial majority" of the embassy presence in Iraq would remain in place.
"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 Arbil and to the Iraq Support Unit in Amman," the State Department said.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that much of the U.S. embassy staff will stay in place even as parts of the country experience instability and violence, The Associated Press reported. She did not specify the number of personnel affected by the shift.
The embassy is within Baghdad's Green Zone and has up to 5,500 personnel, making it the largest U.S. diplomatic post in the world.
"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," Psaki said.
The $750 million embassy is the largest in the world, and boasts amenities for staff that include a six-lane swimming pool, regulation-size basketball court and what Business Insider described recently as a "palatial dining room."
It is completely self-contained with its own power supply, well water and sewage treatment. It is only 3/10ths of an acres smaller than Vatican City and is surrounded by blast walls to protect those inside from attack.
The Australian reported that Australia also has evacuated some staff from its Baghdad embassy.
The ISIS takeover of major cities in Iraq last week caught the United States by surprise. Republicans have blamed President Barack Obama for his failure to secure a status-of-forces agreement with Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki as American troops were pulled out of the country after more than a decade on the ground.
Iraqi forces reportedly took off their uniforms, threw down their weapons and ran as ISIS forces advanced, leaving American-supplied weapons and vehicles in the hands of the terrorist group.
Militants posted graphic photos online boasting of executing 1,700 Iraqi soldiers, though the number could not be independently verified.