US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday mourned the first death of an American diplomat on the job since last year’s attack on the US diplomatic installation in Benghazi, Libya.
Mr Kerry called the death of Anne Smedinghoff a “grim reminder” of the danger facing American foreign service workers serving overseas.
Ms Smedinghoff was one of six Americans killed in an attack on Saturday in Afghanistan. She was on a mission to donate books to students in the south of the country.
“It’s a grim reminder to all of us… of how important, but also how risky, carrying the future is,” Mr Kerry said.
“Folks who want to kill people, and that’s all they want to do, are scared of knowledge. They want to shut the doors and they don’t want people to make their choices about the future. For them, it’s ‘you do things our way, or we throw acid in your face or we put a bullet in your face’,” he said.
Mr Kerry described Ms Smedinghoff as “vivacious, smart, capable, chosen often by the ambassador there to be the lead person because of her capacity.”
She aided Mr Kerry when he visited the country two weeks ago, serving as his control officer, an honour often bestowed on up-and-coming members of the US foreign service.
Ms Smedinghoff previously served in Venezuela.
“The world lost a truly beautiful soul today,” her parents, Tom and Mary Beth Smedinghoff, said in a family statement.
“Working as a public diplomacy officer, she particularly enjoyed the opportunity to work directly with the Afghan people and was always looking for opportunities to reach out and help to make a difference in the lives of those living in a country ravaged by war,” they said. “We are consoled knowing that she was doing what she loved, and that she was serving her country by helping to make a positive difference in the world.”
Mr Kerry declared the protection of American diplomats a top priority on his first day as secretary of state.
The issue has been extremely sensitive since Chris Stevens, the US ambassador to Libya, and three other Americans were killed in Benghazi almost seven months ago.