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11 Feb, 2022 14:12

Mysterious illness hurts diplomats’ morale – US

‘Havana syndrome’ is making it difficult for the US to recruit diplomats, Foreign Service Association chief says
Mysterious illness hurts diplomats’ morale – US

Morale among American diplomats is low, and Washington is struggling to find people to staff its diplomatic missions abroad, the head of the American Foreign Service Association has warned. The condition responsible is known as ‘Havana syndrome’, an illness that nobody can explain.

“People have suffered real trauma and real injury, and it has dramatically hurt our morale, our readiness, our ability to recruit new members in the foreign service,” American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) chief Eric Rubin recently told a medical symposium in Texas, according to a report in The Guardian on Friday.

“It is getting harder when we recruit people,” Rubin, whose organization represents nearly 17,000 current and former diplomats and foreign aid workers, said. “I’ve had young members of the cohort that’s coming into the foreign service ask me: ‘If I do this, what am I getting into? And is this going to get worse? Is this going to get solved? If I get attacked and if I get injured, who’s gonna be there for me?’”

However, there is still no evidence that anyone is being actually attacked. First reported in the Cuban capital in 2016, those allegedly affected by Havana syndrome claim to have suffered vertigo, hearing and memory loss, headaches, nausea, and mental fogginess. 

Cases have been reported by diplomats in China, Russia, Tajikistan, Austria, and in several African countries, and possibly in France and Switzerland. All of those affected were American diplomats, intelligence agents, military personnel, and their families.

Some politicians, journalists and intelligence agents have accused America’s adversaries – namely Russia and China – of causing the condition with high-powered sonic weaponry, but failed to provide any evidence to support these claims. 

In one incident in Havana, a US diplomat claimed to have recorded a sonic weapon being used, but researchers later found that the noise he heard was simply crickets chirping. Even the CIA concluded in a report last month that out of 1,000 reported cases of Havana syndrome, none could be linked to a foreign adversary. Foul play was ruled out in most of the 1,000 cases, and while around two dozen may have been linked to malign activity, the agency noted that this could not be proven.