The following is one in a series of adapted excerpts from “America’s Other Army: The U.S. Foreign Service and 21st-Century Diplomacy.”
Sumreen Mirza’s path to the Foreign Service began in her parents’ homeland, Pakistan. She was an intern at an NGO in the southern port city of Karachi in 2002, when the U.S. Consulate there was attacked in a massive explosion that killed 15 Pakistanis.
Mirza’s proximity to the terrorist act and the torn-down consulate wall had an unexpected effect: it encouraged her to consider a diplomatic career. “I thought I could make a difference on the other side of that wall,” she recalled. “I had a background in urban planning and environmental engineering, and worked for the Army Corps of Engineers.”
That background determined Mirza’s choice of management and administration work as her career track in the Foreign Service when she joined in 2005. Her first posting was as a management officer at the consulate in another Pakistani city, Peshawar. “One of my big challenges was to find new land and space for operations,” she said. “We were in a very small building, and we were very close to a major street and intersection, so it was easy for a car bomber to attack us ― and a couple of years after I left, that’s exactly what happened.”
That 2010 assault, which included a truck bomb, machine guns and rocket launchers, killed six Pakistanis and wounded 20. As in Karachi, there were no American casualties. The attackers failed to breach the outer perimeter of the compound but demolished part of an exterior wall. Earlier this year, two Pakistani employees of the consulate were killed by an explosive device while on a drug-eradication mission…
Photo courtesy of Sumreen Mirza
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