U.S. troops are due to draw down to 50,000 by the end of August 2010 before completely leaving at the end of 2011. The incoming ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing that America’s diplomatic presence would also be winding down in Iraq in the next five years. The U.S. currently has a series of branch embassy offices throughout Iraq that would be closed down by 2014. The State Department is also due to take over the police training program in Iraq from the military, and that too will come to end in 3-5 years. The 16 Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) would also be consolidated into three offices and two consulates, before being phased out as well. After five years then, the U.S. diplomatic presence in Iraq would consist of the American embassy in Baghdad, an office in charge of military sales, and a consulate in southern Iraq and one in the north based upon the PRTs. James Jeffrey is currently the ambassador to Turkey, but is due to replace Christopher Hill as the American representative to Iraq.
Jeffrey was outlining the State Department’s plan to treat Iraq more like other countries in the future. Instead of having a large military force present, and the U.S. Iraq command being on equal terms with the U.S. embassy, the State Department will take over primary relations with Baghdad, although everyone expects at least a large training mission and military bases to remain in Iraq after 2011 since their security forces will not be capable of defending the country from external threats. This is a controversial policy with both the U.S. military and Iraqi politicians. Iraqi officials told the Los Angeles Times for example, that their country can not be treated like a regular country because it has too many problems. This is a view shared by some in the American military who are worried that the State Department will have too much of a hands off approach with Iraq’s weak and divided political class who tend to use brinkmanship when any major issue arises. Iraqi and U.S. military officials, as well as some think tanks, believe that this all comes down to the Obama administration’s focus upon withdrawing troops at the expense of creating a long-term relationship with Iraq. Administration officials have countered by saying that it is time for the Iraqis to take the lead securing and governing their own country, that maintaining a large U.S. presence could undermine the legitimacy of Baghdad, and that it is simply not politically viable anymore to maintain a large force in Iraq due to America’s domestic concerns. Since President Obama has the final say and believes in this policy, Iraqis and Americans are going to have to adapt to this new situation in the coming years.
Burns, Robert, “US envoy: Diplomatic presence in Iraq to shrink,” Associated Press, 7/20/10
Hanna, Michael Wahid, “Stay the Course of Withdrawal,” Foreign Affairs, 4/4/10
Londono, Ernesto and DeYoung, Karen, “U.S. grapples with shift from military- to diplomatic-run effort in Iraq,” Washington Post, 5/25/10
Parker, Ned, “Iraqi officials see U.S. as neglecting the country,” Los Angeles Times, 6/25/10
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