A small bullet-point in the White House’s new terra document, 9/11 Five Years Later: Successes and Challenges (the bullet point can be found inSections IV: Prevent Attacks by Terrorists under the headingDisrupting Financial Support) announces the creation of a new office in the ginormus US Embassy in Baghdad:
The United States, through the Office of Hostage Affairs in Embassy Baghdad, is addressing the scourge of kidnapping in Iraq, a key source of terrorist financing. Through interagency and international efforts, hostages have been freed and/or rescued.
Agence France-Presse was as shocked as you are.
The White House revealed what may be a US diplomatic first: the US embassy in Baghdad houses a formal “Office of Hostage Affairs” to handle abductions of American citizens and other nationals.
“The United States, through the Office of Hostage Affairs in Embassy Baghdad, is addressing the scourge of kidnapping in Iraq, a key source of terrorist financing,” the White House said in an official document.
The US embassy in Baghdad makes no mention of such an office on its Internet site, which includes listings for cultural affairs, consular affairs, political-military affairs, agricultural affairs, and public affairs.
And a search of the US State Department Internet site does not turn up any mention of such an office anywhere else.
The White House and the US State Department declined to say whether the office was the only one of its kind in operation, or to confirm that it had not ever been discussed publicly before.