Diplomatic game of cat and mouse in Kabul over embassy's feline friends

There may be bombs going off across Afghanistan, a fraught relationship with President Hamid Karzai to preserve, and the small matter of restoring law and order before the troops go home and the money runs out. But diplomats with the US mission in Kabul have another problem on their hands: what to do about the cats.

This is the pressing issue confronting Ryan C Crocker, the new US ambassador to Kabul, and it's polarising opinion at one of the world's largest embassies, the Washington Post reports.

When one of the semi-domesticated cats living on the high-security premises mauled one of the staff earlier this year, health and safety ordered the extermination of the Embassy's feline population. Ever since, America's finest have been engaged in a fierce and escalating row over the fate of Gordo, Freckles, Dusty et al.

To understand how emotive the issue has become it's important to venture inside the claustrophobic atmosphere of the US Embassy in Kabul, where security protocols have not been designed to make diplomats' lives easy. Entrance is through a series of checkpoints and barred doors that can take 10 minute to navigate. Taking a turn in the garden is often off limits because of the persistent rocket and mortar threat.

"We basically can't go out at all," one diplomat confided. "We can't walk across the street; we have to take a tunnel. There are no kids, no families, and basically what we have is the cats. It's as close as we come to normality." But set against the pro-cat lobby are the sticklers for the rules. "I'm not anti-cat," said one senior diplomat. "I'm pro-public health."

In April, one of the embassy's top diplomats, James Keith, set a 60-day deadline for staff members to adopt and ship the cats home– or leave them to their fate. The fight-back, led by the cat committee, did not take long to materialise. Pro-catters claimed an extermination order would do away with valuable mousers, paving the way for a new range of pests to invade the Embassy. These might include not just vermin and poisonous snakes but feral cats, unused to human contact and far more vicious than their predecessors.

Nor was that all. Unknown activists pinned a letter, Taliban-style, to the wall of the Embassy pub, the Duck and Cover. "Warning," it read, above an image of two insurgent cats toting AK-47s. "We will break out our fellow comrades from your compound." Another pro-catter secretly distributed flyers picturing a cat posing as Che Guevara. "Viva la revolucion," it read.

The other side fought back. One staff member wrote to Afghan Scene, a Kabul-based magazine aimed at expatriates. "In one of your publications I saw an NGO supporting the pets... We have cats that needs [sic] to be taken out from the compound. Can you please pass my email/contact info to them or ask them to contact me to talk about the project?" Meanwhile, rules allowing diplomats to keep small pets were quietly revised to exclude cats.

The signs are all that America has stumbled into another escalating stalemate in Afghanistan.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Suggested Topics
Sport
tennisLive: Follow all the updates from Melbourne as Murray faces Czech Tomas Berdych in the semi-final
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
'Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows' by John Constable
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
Sport
Harry Kane celebrates scoring the opening goal for Spurs
footballLive: All the latest transfer news as deadline day looms
Arts and Entertainment
Master of ceremony: Jeremy Paxman
tvReview: Victory for Jeremy Paxman in this absorbing, revealing tale
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Communications Executive

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Ashdown Group: SQL DBA (SSIS, ETL) - London, £60k

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: SQL DBA (SSIS, ETL) - Central London, £60,000...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Recruitment Genius: Service Agent / QA Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an est...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness