Friday, July 16, 2010

Change Your Summer Vacation Plans, Pakistan is Full

The WaPo has taken note of the recent OIG inspection report for U.S. Embassy Pakistan, and has this to say about the overcrowded conditions there:

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad might want to hang a "No Vacancy" sign at the front door every so often, according to auditors.

As if the tight space and small staff wasn't bad enough, embassy workers are devoting a significant portion of their time to the hundreds of lawmakers and senior administration officials who visit each year, the State Department Inspector General said in a new report.

Dignitaries made almost 700 visits in fiscal year 2009, requiring the embassy to hold hundreds of planning meetings and make use of more than 300 vehicles. It also had to provide drivers, note takers and beds for all of the visitors.

The visits put a special strain on the embassy's reporting and public diplomacy officers, who have to devote time to the visits despite "Washington’s voracious reporting and outreach requirements," the report said.

The influx led embassy officials to clamp down on visits by administration officials in December, but it still permits Congressional delegations in order to maintain support for ongoing operations, auditors found.

The embassy and its three consulates in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar could also use some more space. Plans are in place to permit embassy workers living off-site to move within the safer walls of the Islamabad compound. An office building in Karachi is due to open this summer, but delays at the port might postpone completion. And efforts to locate a safe spot for the Peshawar consulate -- which auditors call arguably the most dangerous in the world -- have been unsuccessful. (Maybe because it's considered the most dangerous in the world?)

Only arguably the most dangerous diplomatic post in the world? There is no argument about it, at least, I've never heard anyone argue that it isn't. Peshawar displaced Karachi from the #1 spot a couple years ago.

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