Khashoggi ordeal spotlights staffing gap at embassies around the world.
Nearly two years into the Trump administration, over two dozen ambassador posts remain unfilled and without a nominee—including the ambassador positions in both Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
That staffing gap issue resurfaced in the past week when Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi—who is also a U.S. resident—went missing in Turkey amid reports that he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Though the U.S. embassies in both countries have diplomatic staff, the absence of an ambassador has implications on the work diplomats do and could send a message that the United States is not fully engaged.
The issue of unfilled posts has sparked a fierce war of words between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and some lawmakers on Capitol Hill: Both sides agree they need to bring American diplomacy up to its full fighting force, but they spar over who’s to blame for the shortage.
Pompeo says Senate Democrats are holding up over 60 State Department hires for positions that require presidential nomination and senate confirmation.
Democrats insist many career diplomats are being confirmed and some other nominees being held up in the senate are unqualified for the job.
Foreign Policy has mapped out all the holes in the U.S. diplomatic system here:
No ambassadors exchanged/no diplomatic relations
Sources: American Foreign Service Association, U.S. State Department, U.S. Congressional Records