Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Americans Will Still Be Serving in Iraq

I am glad someone has noticed that not all Americans serving in Iraq will leave with the soldiers.

As soldiers leave, U.S. diplomats face huge Iraq challenge

By Andrew Quinn

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As the last American soldiers leave Iraq, the U.S. State Department assumes the reins of a complex and risky operation, the success or failure of which could determine whether the costly nine-year U.S. engagement with the country finally bears fruit.

U.S. diplomats, shielded by thousands of security contractors, will seek to monitor Iraq's fragile political evolution and push ahead with civilian aid programs designed to demonstrate the benefits of U.S. friendship.

Their aim is to secure an alliance with a nascent democracy neighboring Iran that, as a key oil producer, has seen its strategic importance to Washington increase sharply amid the political turmoil engulfing the Middle East.

But analysts say that, without U.S. military protection, they may end up trapped in fortified diplomatic bunkers while bureaucrats at home struggle with the logistics of organizing and securing one of the biggest U.S. diplomatic endeavors ever undertaken.


A handful of U.S. military personnel will remain in the country, working with the embassy to help with arms sales and training for Iraqi forces. Talks could resume next year on whether more U.S. troops can return for future training missions
In the meantime, U.S. officials say there will be roughly 16,000 people involved in the American diplomatic effort in Iraq.

About 2,000 will be diplomats and federal workers. The remaining 14,000 will be contractors - roughly half involved with security while the rest will be doing everything from keeping the kitchens running to managing the motor pool.

The operation will focus on the fortress-like U.S. Embassy in Baghdad -- the largest and most expensive U.S. diplomatic mission in the world -- as well as at consulates in Basra, Erbil and Kirkuk, each of them "hardened" to resist militant attack.


For U.S. diplomats and other federal officials working in Iraq, a day at work is likely to involve working the phones from behind blast walls and under heavy guard.

Potential threats include a much-diminished, but still lethal, Sunni insurgency; Iranian-backed Shi'ite militia groups; and the possibility of resurgent ethnic conflict.

Diplomatic facilities will be equipped with their own radar to detect incoming mortars and missiles, while rare movement around the country will be likely be severely restricted.

"They are not going to be able to move around much. That's obvious," said Dov Zakheim, a former senior Pentagon official during the Reagan and George W. Bush administrations who has specialized in looking at U.S. contracting in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Of course they are in a combat environment. As long as they deny that then there are a lot of issues they are sidestepping."


You can read the entire article here.

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