Biden to pick Kurdish-American diplomat as ambassador to Egypt

Iraqi-born Herro Mustafa Garg is a Middle East expert who has held senior positions at the US embassies in Lisbon and New Delhi

Herro Mustafa Garg became the first American ambassador of Kurdish descent when she was appointed to run the embassy in Bulgaria by former president Donald Trump in 2019. Photo: American Chamber of Commerce in Bulgaria
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US President Joe Biden intends to nominate Iraqi-born career diplomat Herro Mustafa Garg as the next ambassador to Egypt.

Ms Mustafa Garg is a Middle East expert whose previous briefs covered Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan.

If confirmed, she will succeed Jonathan Cohen as head of the large US diplomatic mission in Cairo. Mr Cohen left the Egyptian capital in August 2022 and the embassy has since been run by the charge d’affaires, Daniel Rubinstein.

Born in Iraq's Erbil, Ms Mustafa Garg became the first American ambassador of Kurdish descent when she was appointed to run the embassy in Bulgaria by former president Donald Trump in 2019.

Her family fled the regime of Saddam Hussein and spent two years living in refugee camps in Iran until they were sponsored to come to the US.

Ms Mustafa Garg graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and has a master's from Princeton University. She speaks nine languages, including Arabic and Kurdish.

“My family story is an example of the American dream,” Ms Mustafa Garg said in an interview with The America for Bulgaria Foundation.

“I strove to make the most of opportunities available to me, and the United States is a country that rewards hard work. I truly love America, I believe that other countries benefit from the partnership with the United States, and that belief underpins all the work I do as a diplomat.”

If confirmed in the post in Cairo, Ms Mustafa Garg will be serving in a country bound to the US by a large web of economic, military and counterterrorism ties and which is viewed by Washington as a strategic partner.

Egypt has also been among the world’s largest recipients of US aid since it signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. It is currently receiving $1.3 billion in military aid. The two nations closely co-ordinate their counterterrorism efforts and regularly hold joint war games.

US military aircraft routinely fly through Egypt’s airspace and its warships are given priority when they sail through the Suez Canal.

However, Ms Mustafa Garg could also inherit some thorny issues when she takes up the post.

Last September, the Biden administration withheld 130 million in foreign military aid citing Egypt's failure to fulfil human rights conditions and then a month later Senators blocked a further $75 million over the same matter.

Egypt too has previously urged greater US involvement in mediating a legally binding agreement with Ethiopia as it builds the Grand Renaissance Dam that Cairo fears could impact its vital supply of water.

Ms Mustafa Garg's prior posts include ambassador to Bulgaria from 2019 to 2023 and top positions at the US embassies in Lisbon and New Delhi.

Before serving in Lisbon and New Delhi, Ms Mustafa Garg worked for the US Vice President’s office on issues related to the Middle East and South and Central Asia.

She was also Mr Biden's senior advisor on the Middle East from 2009 to 2011 while he was vice president to Barack Obama.

“Her other Washington assignments include Deputy Director of the Afghanistan Office, Adviser on the Middle East in the Office of the Under Secretary for Political Affairs, Director for Iran, Israeli-Palestinian Affairs, and Jordan at the National Security Council, as well as National Security Council Director for Iraq and Afghanistan,” the White House announced in its statement on her possible nomination.

Ms Mustafa Garg has also served as lead US Civilian Co-ordinator in Mosul, Iraq, as Consular Officer in Beirut, Lebanon and as Political Officer in Athens, Greece.

Updated: March 30, 2023, 10:30 AM