Facing the challenge of finding diplomats to serve amid the violence and chaos in Baghdad, the U.S. State Department offers new incentives to its diplomats to work in the embassy.
According to a memo sent to employees last Friday and obtained by ABC News, the State Department is allowing diplomats who volunteer to serve the next year in Iraq to choose their following assignment now, including coveted and more comfortable posts in Western Europe.
It would allow the diplomats a greater chance of getting the post they want after Iraq by securing that job a year ahead of time.
"The idea behind linked assignments is that a volunteer for Iraq service will be able to be paneled to an onward assignment at the same time he or she is paneled to Baghdad," the memo, titled "Announcing Additional Incentives for Baghdad Service: Opportunities for Linked Assignments" announced.
It goes on to list 22 midcareer positions in the Baghdad Embassy open to this new program, including several in political, economic and political-military affairs.
This is the first time such a program has been implemented, and the latest indication that the State Department anticipates having difficulty finding qualified diplomats to staff the embassy next year. The department has warned that if not enough people volunteer, some will be forced to staff the embassy.
In June, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced to employees that all positions in the Baghdad Embassy must be filled before other jobs are opened, and that the Department would begin taking early volunteers for Iraq immediately, well ahead of the usual application cycle for 2008 assignments, which begins in September.
Rice's announcement came just weeks after the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker complained in a May 31 letter to to the secretary of state that his post was not receiving the top talent that it deserved.
According to the State Department, 25 percent of its foreign service officers have served either full or temporary terms in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003.
Employees are not allowed to bring their families with them to Iraq, as is the case in other posts such as those in Kabul, Afghanistan and Islamabad, Pakistan.
The State Department said the number of unaccompanied posts had tripled since 2003 to more than 700. The Department provides assistance to those diplomats who do serve in such posts without their families, such as more money for serving in a dangerous post and support for their families.
Last Thursday, Rice wrote another a letter to department employees thanking those who have volunteered for hardship posts, and urging others to do so.
In the July 26 memo titled "Responding to Challenges of Our New Era -- a Call to Service" Rice wrote, "I encourage you to serve in transitioning countries, to learn their culture and their language -- from Arabic to Chinese to Hindi -- and to share the principles and the story of the American people. I especially encourage your continued commitment to serve at our most difficult and essential posts, such as Baghdad and Kabul."
She added, "I believe we are at a crossroads in history. The decisions we make and the actions we take will shape our world for years to come. I believe that we, like our predecessors, must actively commit to building a better world where terror, injustice and extremism cannot gain a foothold."