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U.S. raises flag over former embassy in Kabul

U.S. Marines raise the flag at the former embassy in Kabul.
U.S. Marines raise the flag at the former embassy in Kabul.  

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The United States resumed its official diplomatic presence in Afghanistan when it raised the flag Monday at its former embassy in Kabul for the first time since 1989.

"It demonstrates that we're determined to play a continuing diplomatic, political and economic role here in assisting Afghanistan to make the transition from war to peace," according to James Dobbins, the State Department's top representative to Afghanistan.

"We are here, and we are here to stay," Dobbins declared at the ceremony. "I declare this mission open for business."

The former embassy initially will serve as a "liaison office" between the United States and the interim Afghan government, which is set to take office December 22.

CNN's Jim Clancy reports that the U.S. hopes the opening of the embassy will provide a fresh start in Kabul (December 17)

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Through the years, the embassy building has been hit by rocket fire and one of its annexes was burned by an anti-U.S. mob. In 1979, the ambassador was kidnapped by terrorists and killed in an ensuing gun battle.

But the embassy building still stands, largely intact, on almost 28 acres in the capital city, even though the Taliban militia ransacked it.

The interior has largely remained frozen in time. The ambassador's desk was strewn with papers from 12 years ago and a half-smoked cigar was found in an ashtray.

Books remained on shelves, pictures on walls, and the ambassador's fine china, crystal and service set are still intact.

U.S. Marines guarding the compound said there have been no serious incidents there.

But they say that machinegun and anti-aircraft fire celebrating the end of the month of Ramadan added an edge to their duties.

Britain, France, Germany, and Italy already have embassies or missions open, joining Russia, India and Iran. Turkey is to open its embassy on Monday.

During the five years of Taliban rule, Afghanistan went unrecognized by all but three states: Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.


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