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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

CRS Issue Statement on Iraq

Christopher M. Blanchard, Coordinator
Analyst in Middle Eastern Affairs

As Iraq's leaders continue to negotiate over the formation of a new government months after March 2010 national elections, Congress is considering Administration requests for FY2011 funding to support military operations and foreign assistance programs in Iraq. The outcome of coalition negotiations among the winning parties in the election will shape the positions that Iraq's government takes as the United States implements its policy of military withdrawal and transition to what the Administration hopes will be a long-term bilateral partnership with Iraq. 

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. In spite of periodic high-profile attacks, 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 and in the months that have followed have further boosted the confidence of Iraqi and U.S. officials. 

In line with the U.S.-Iraqi Security Agreement and Obama Administration policy, U.S. troops have shifted from a combat mission to a support and training role, and the withdrawal of U.S. troops has resumed. The approximately 50,000 troops remaining in Iraq as of late August 2010 are scheduled to withdraw completely by December 31, 2011. Through that date, remaining U.S. military forces are tasked with advising and assisting Iraqi forces and providing protection to some U.S. personnel and facilities. U.S. military participation in Iraqi-led counterterrorism missions is set to continue, subject to the terms of the bilateral security agreement. Iraqi and U.S. policy makers remain focused on resolving tensions between Sunni Arabs and Kurds in northern Iraq, amid concerns that conflict could result. 

The withdrawal of U.S. forces is being accompanied by a transition in the organization of U.S. military and civilian agencies in Iraq. As military forces withdraw, an expanding civilian presence is expected to take on new roles. In conjunction with that transition, Congress is considering appropriations requests for and is preparing for oversight of more robust civilian-led programs. Civilian agencies such as the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development plan to assume increased operating costs and exercise new and expanded leadership, diplomatic presence, security, and development responsibilities. 

Congressional debate on Iraq during the second session of the 111th Congress may continue to focus on U.S. efforts to encourage Iraqis to find political accommodations and to help Iraq consolidate hard-won security improvements. Debate also may focus on policies to adequately fund and prepare U.S. military forces and civilian agencies to execute continuing security missions, to implement new training programs, and to manage needs created by the transition to civilian leadership and planned force withdrawals.

Date of Report: August 23, 2010
Number of Pages: 3
Order Number: IS40339
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