KABUL – U.S. Embassy officials in Afghanistan are developing plans to reduce the large contingent of contractors at the massive U.S. Embassy complex amid a worsening security situation across the country, according to embassy officials and contractors.
State Department officials are undertaking what an embassy official said was an intensive look at the number of contractors and other personnel at the embassy, which houses about 4,000 diplomats, contractors and other staff, including about 1,400 Americans.
The review is expected to result in a significant reduction of the thousands of Afghan and American contractors, as well as those from other countries, officials said.
U.S. diplomatic officials also are weighing whether some of those jobs could be sent to the U.S. and whether others could be reduced or eliminated, officials said.
The security situation in Afghanistan has put U.S. Embassy officials in a difficult position. The U.S. has tried to signal to Afghan officials that it would continue to support the government, while preparing to respond to security concerns.
“We don’t want to draw down the mission so much so we can’t do our crucial diplomatic work,” one official said.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, one of the largest U.S. embassies in the world, is responsible for maintaining contacts with the Afghan government and other allies, along with reporting on political and security developments and overseeing a multibillion-dollar aid budget.
The embassy is a vast compound of about 36 acres alongside the U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization military headquarters in the upscale neighborhood of Wazir Akbar Khan, a heavily fortified area sometimes known as the Green Zone.
Part of the diplomatic heart of Kabul, the embassy complex includes office and apartment buildings, recreational facilities, a swimming pool and marketplace, and even a bar known as the “Duck and Cover.”
The complex is situated behind a series of cement blast walls, high metal gates and other barriers. In addition to the normal complement of U.S. Marine Corps security guards, U.S. military officials are expected to install a Marine quick-reaction force to respond to potential emergencies, military officials have said.
The U.S. military and State Department officials have stepped up planning for an emergency evacuation of the Kabul embassy, which would remove all American personnel and effectively close the embassy, The Wall Street Journal has reported. U.S. officials stressed that there were no immediate plans to evacuate the embassy, but that the planning is being done out of prudence.