Winding Down In Iraq Without Consequences

And so Obama completes another Bush Administration milestone. The formal withdrawal of American forces commences from Iraq — although the Obama Administration fought hard (and bungled negotiations) with the Iraqis to leave a residual force. A goal to which ‘serious’ people like Joe Lieberman and John McCain still cling.

Oddly, the Senators and CENTCOM may get their way even so. Iraqi domestic political opposition (which centered mostly about language in negotiations re legal jurisdiction over American troops and initiation of military activity) may require American troops to ‘leave’ before they are ‘invited’ back. So don’t be too surprised to see American contingents re-flow back to supplement the tens of thousands of contractors and other assorted flotsam and jetsam left behind. Like some kind of cruddy residue.

The ‘support our troops’ stickers in SUV windows are fewer now. The magnets tucked away. Many Americans possibly sense things are different because NCIS no longer features Iraq-related plots prominently. For several seasons now.

Those who lied the U.S. into war a war of aggression or continued to support those lies after exposure? They’ve collectively (nice word, that, no?) have paid little or no price. Many personalities are regulars on the cable TV circuit. Some churn out mind numbing books that like Speer and Posnan try to argue ‘they did not know’ (and weren’t there). It’s their good fortune that Iraq is already becoming the (second) ‘Forgotten War’.

Others are less fortunate. Some returning home will be shocked at the society they thought they were defending. Welcome to the 99%.


  1. RedPhillip says

    @Anxiousmodernman According to the folks at Stratfor, some 11,000 people will be working in the US ’embassy’ in Baghdad, with additional personnel stationed in consulates in Basra, Kirkuk and Arbil:

    “Working inside the heavily fortified embassy and consulates in Iraq are some 16,000 personnel, 5,000 of whom are security contractors. The remaining 11,000 include diplomats, intelligence officers and analysts, defense attaches, military liaison personnel and aid and development personnel. There also are many contractors who perform support functions such as maintaining the facilities and vehicles and providing needed services such as cooking and cleaning.”

    See the full article here:

    The 16,000 personnel mentioned are only those under USG contract of one kind or another (and not all of them are US citizens, btw). I haven’t seen any estimates of the number of US citizens in Iraq under other than USG auspices.

  2. Anxiousmodernman says

    “Iraqi domestic politics (which centered mostly about language in negotiations over legal jurisdiction over American troops)”

    There must be more to it than that, but I’ll buy it.

    Are there any good estimates of the number of American functionaries that will remain in Iraq? We will probably retain the large embassy operation. But what about other security personnel? Guarding an oil well perhaps? I honestly feel very ignorant on this issue.

    It does feel like a long time since we focused on the war in Iraq. The president, and the other major political figures, dramatically shifted the rhetoric towards Afghanistan these past 2 years. And if they’re low key on the issue, the press, too, with a few notable exceptions.

    Not to mention the fact that our congress has failed to even pass a coherent budget in who knows how long. Domestic politics have been super bizarre at the high levels that drive the conversation.

    We are distracted for positive reasons, also. There’s an openness in the domestic political space that hasn’t been there in a long time. Literally anything could happen. The people, in their visceral and open disapproval, transcend our political classes. All that stuff about social contracts and the consent of the governed, a great many people believe that and can be motivated to take risks its name.

    It’s also worth pointing out that we have been flying sorties over the place since the 90s.

    • Dr Leo Strauss says

      The Status of Forces Agreement we wanted with Iraq went beyond SOFAs we’ve negotiated with other host countries. The legal issues involved essentially reserved for U.S. the right to initiate military activities on its own accord with UN or other mandate.

      Opposition in the Iraqi Parliament to this provision and general American approach have been high. Still, the Obama Administration initiated talks breaking which predictably broke down. To the surprise of many Iraqis and Americans, the residual forces won’t be around initially.

      To say Obama did not try to remain in Iraq is a misnomer. The timing and approach of the American negotiations and lack of sensitivity to domestic Iraqi realities probably more determinative.

      Right now, it’s expected that about 16,000 American contractors will remain after the last 5,500 troops leave. Notably, however, Obama separately has not ruled out private military contractors (PMCs) flowing back ‘for training and coordination’.

      The U.S. Embassy there is now a construct worthy of the Padishah Emperor from House Corrino from Dune: the largest U.S. embassy anywhere. So figure State, Commerce, DoD, (huge) OGA and personnel and support staff, some locals.

      A portion of U.S. forces is not expected to return to CONUS immediately, in the hope that in the interim a final SOFA can be reached with Baghdad, once the Iraqis are confronted with the political and practical void left by American forces.

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