The State Department ordered Wednesday the departure of non-emergency US government employees from Iraq amid increasing tensions with Iran and warned US citizens not to travel to the country, citing a “high risk for violence and kidnapping.”
The announcement comes on the heels of an unannounced trip to Iraq by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo where he said he spoke to officials about the country’s ability to protect Americans. The action also represents the latest maneuvering by the Trump administration in the Middle East, where the Pentagon has recently positioned a carrier strike group and a bomber task force.
The department said in a statement that employees working in the US embassy in Baghdad and the US consulate in Erbil were instructed to leave Iraq, and that “normal visa services will be temporarily suspended at both posts.”
It added that American Citizens Services employees who were working in the embassy in Baghdad “will continue to provide consular services to U.S. citizens in Basrah.”
The department said the sudden changes were because the US government’s “ability to provide routine and emergency services to US citizens in Iraq is extremely limited” and that as a result, the threat of “terrorism, kidnapping, and armed conflict” aimed at Americans in the country was too great a risk.