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Embassy Staff In Baghdad Inadequate, Rice Is Told

Shortly after arriving in Baghdad, Crocker asked Rice to dispatch Pat Kennedy, the State Department's director of management policy, to Baghdad to conduct an extensive assessment of staffing and security issues. Kennedy was directed to come up with a plan to bring greater order to embassy staffing, beef up the political and economic sections, and make sure the embassy has greater control over staffing decisions.

Kennedy's 80-page report includes 88 recommendations, including doubling the personnel devoted to political and economic reporting and analysis, State Department officials said. The embassy previously had 15 political officers, and Crocker has won an additional 11. The nine-person economic staff will be increased to 21 and will add four contractors. Many of the slots will be transferred from functions that are ending, such as reconstruction projects.

In the cable, Crocker said the State Department's human resources office "has made heroic efforts to staff the embassy, but to a large extent HR has been working alone." Referring to the floor where Rice and her top aides work, Crocker said there should be "a clear message from the Seventh floor . . . that staffing Iraq is an imperative."

Crocker also called for ensuring that responsibility for recruiting and assigning personnel for the embassy rests with the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, which covers the Middle East and North Africa. All other bureau assignments "should be held until there are sufficient bidders with requisite qualifications for Iraq positions," Crocker wrote.

Crocker, in the interview, said the human resources department does not have the capacity to make sure the best people are placed in Baghdad. "They can't do this," he said, whereas the Near East bureau, which oversees Baghdad, has the skills to "identify the right people with the right skill sets." State Department officials acknowledge that hiring has been haphazard, but a team has been set up in the Near East bureau to work with the personnel department.

Crocker's cable also complained about the "overly restrictive" security rules that the diplomats must operate under because of a law passed after the 1983 bombing of the Beirut embassy. "If the Department's normal standards for operation were fully applied, we would not have a diplomatic presence in Iraq," he wrote. "We do, and we must." He asked for authority to operate under less restrictive military standards, as necessary.

Crocker, in the interview, said diplomats are "not able to do the job needed," such as meet with officials in cities such as Najaf, under the security rules.

State Department officials acknowledge that the law did not envision a situation such as Iraq and that department lawyers are examining whether it can be interpreted to give Crocker additional flexibility.

If military standards "are good enough for them, they should be good enough for us," Crocker said. "We are all in the same fight."

Staff writer Karen DeYoung contributed to this report.

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