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Monday, April 19, 2010

CRS Issue Statement on Iraq

Christopher M. Blanchard, Coordinator
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs

Iraq's newly elected government will face persistent challenges and new opportunities in the wake of March 2010 national elections. While post-2007 security gains and steps toward reconciliation halted Iraq's descent into civil war and chaos, in the immediate term, Iraqi and U.S. policy makers continue to focus on efforts to consolidate those gains and improvements, which remain fragile. U.S. commanders report in early 2010 that further withdrawals of the approximately 110,000 remaining U.S. troops from Iraq will, as expected, begin after the Iraqi elections. 

Under the U.S.-Iraqi Security Agreement, U.S. troops will shift from a combat to a support and training role, declining to about 50,000 troops by August 31, 2010 and withdrawing completely by December 31, 2011. The withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraqi cities was completed by July 2009, in line with the U.S.-Iraq agreement. The U.S. Army's Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP), an Army program designed to manage civilian contractors, is now in transition. The LOGCAP III contractor is participating in the Iraq drawdown, and the LOGCAP IV contractor is now involved in the transition of requirements. 

In 2009, Iraqi and U.S. officials hoped that improved conditions would allow the United States and its Iraqi partners to look, for the first time since 2003, beyond short term security concerns toward defining a more normal, long-term bilateral relationship. A series of high profile attacks in late 2009 raised some questions about the capabilities and reliability of Iraq's security forces, although U.S. and Iraqi officials continue to express confidence that insurgent and terrorist groups in Iraq have been degraded and no longer pose a strategic threat to the Iraqi government. The success of security operations during Iraq's national elections further boosted the confidence of Iraqi and U.S. officials. Meanwhile, tensions between Sunni Arabs and Kurds as well as between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad remain unresolved, amid concerns that conflict could result. 

Declines in global oil prices have had a direct fiscal impact on Iraq's budget, and may have a greater negative effect if price declines resume or if export volumes remain static. In 2009, Iraq awarded a number of new contracts for the development of its oil sector and the expansion of oil production and exports, in spite of an ongoing delay over the issuance of new oil and gas sector management legislation. Iraq has opened new, more positive relationships with many of its neighbors, while relations with others, such as Saudi Arabia, remain tentative or, in the case of Iran, potentially disruptive. 

Congressional debate on Iraq during the second session of the 111th Congress may continue to focus on U.S. efforts to help Iraq consolidate hard-won security improvements and to encourage Iraqis to find political accommodations. Debate also may focus on policies to adequately fund and prepare U.S. forces to execute ongoing security missions, to expand training activities, and to continue withdrawals as called for in the bilateral agreements with Iraq and U.S. plans. The outcome of coalition negotiations among the winning parties in Iraq's March 2010 election will influence the positions of the Iraqi government as the United States implements its policy of security partnership and military withdrawal. Congress will consider FY2011 budget requests and authorizations from the Obama Administration that likely will reflect U.S. priorities for supporting Iraq's transition and for future U.S. engagement.

Additional resources can be found here:

Date of Report: March 31, 2010
Number of Pages: 3
Order Number: IS40339
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