“We believe the survey will show that a [car bomb] would cause catastrophic failure of the building in light of the local construction techniques and materials,” Kelly wrote.
The structure’s outer perimeter wall is composed of sun-dried bricks made from mud, straw and manure, and the contractor used untreated timber for the roof, the memo says.
A chain of security incidents has prevented U.S. officials from moving into the facility, which was scheduled to be ready for occupancy last month. Most notable was the April 2011 attack on the United Nations compound, which is close to the would-be U.S. consulate. A mob enraged by the burning of Korans by a fringe American pastor stormed into the compound after Friday prayers and killed three European U.N. workers and four of their Nepalese guards.
Susceptible to attack
There were other reasons for concern. In August, according to the memo, Afghan security forces uncovered a “sophisticated surveillance operation against the consulate, including information about plans to breach the consulate site.” In December, four people were killed in a bombing at the Blue Mosque, less than an eighth of a mile from the prospective consulate.
The attacks and threats, Kelly wrote, “are symptomatic of a real, measurable uptick in the threat stream.” The hours-long attack in September on the U.S. Embassy in Kabul from a nearby building under construction renewed concerns about the vulnerabilities of the Mazar-e Sharif site.
“The entire compound is surrounded by buildings with overwatch and there is almost no space on the compound that cannot be watched, or fired upon, from an elevated position outside the compound,” Kelly wrote.
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.
In December, 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.