A distinguished U.S. diplomat who was seen as a rising star at the State Department resigned after writing a searing letter to Secretary Of State Rex Tillerson, accusing him of gutting the department and damaging America’s standing across the world.
Elizabeth Shackelford, who served as a political officer based in Nairobi for the U.S. mission to Somalia, lamented in a Nov. 7 letter obtained by Foreign Policy the “stinging disrespect” President Donald Trump’s administration had shown the diplomatic corps and how it was “driving” the department’s most experienced staff away in growing numbers.
“The cost of this is visible every day in Mission Somalia, my current post, where State’s diplomatic influence, on the country and within our own interagency, is waning,” Shackelford wrote.
She said she was “shocked” when Tillerson, who stepped down as Exxon Mobil CEO to serve as Trump’s secretary of state, told department employees that advancing human rights across the globe “creates obstacles to our ability to advance our national security interests.“
If Tillerson is unable to “stem the bleeding” and preserve the department’s mission, she added, “I would humbly recommend you follow me out the door.”
Trump’s administration has been harshly criticized for downplaying human rights issues in countries like Russia, Turkey, and the Philippines. Democratic lawmakers and former ambassadors have also accused Tillerson of gutting the department’s budget and staff at a critical and dangerous time, as difficult foreign policy challenges persist in the Middle East and on the Korean peninsula.
Tillerson, who has still has not denied having called Trump a “moron” in private earlier this year, has been the subject of a raft of rumors that his time at the State Department will be short-lived. The White House last month reportedly floated a plan about replacing Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo in order to help push out the secretary of state.
Tillerson has defended the job he has done and said the department has been in need of a “redesign” to simplify its workforce.