There are currently 46,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, down from some 170,000 in 2007. Another 39,000 U.S. forces are stationed in neighboring Kuwait. The current status of forces agreement, signed by Washington and Baghdad in 2008, authorizes U.S. forces in the country through the end of 2011.
Meanwhile, the U.S. government is rapidly doubling its diplomatic staff, with the goal of having roughly 16,000 embassy personnel there by 2012, according to James Jeffrey, U.S. ambassador to Iraq. By comparison, the State Department says its London embassy in the United Kingdom has a staff of some 750, and acknowledges a few hundred personnel at its embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.
According to the New York Times, Iraqi prime minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and White House officials have privately told each other they want to keep a substantial U.S. garrison force in Iraq. Disputes within the Iraqi government, however, have held up the signing of a new agreement and contributed to an impasse over the appointment of ministers of defense, interior, and national security, reports the Financial Times of London.
There are needs that will continue for some time, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen told the media, commenting on Washingtons plans for Iraq and the region.
In a recent trip to Iraq, U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta voiced frustration over Baghdads delay in approving Washingtons ongoing military operations there. Dammit, make a decision, he said. Dont they want us to stay? [D]ont they want to get a minister of defense?
The Los Angeles Times reports that unnamed U.S. officials say the White House is prepared to keep as many as 10,000 U.S. troops around Baghdad and elsewhere in the country. That would be on top of the nearly 50,000 Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force personnel the Pentagon reports deploying around Iraq as of March 31 of this year.
The Pentagon is putting multiple plans in place to support U.S. troop operations in Iraq in 2012, Alan Estevez, the Pentagons nominee to lead its logistics and materiel readiness office, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing July 19. As contracts expire on food services, fuel, and logistics support, he said, the Department of Defense can almost immediately turn the volume on [them] back up.
The U.S. embassy, which opened on new grounds in January 2009, is by far the largest in the worldabout the size of 80 football fields and 10 times bigger than any other U.S. embassy.
The thousands of diplomats and U.S. military advisers and trainers operating on embassy grounds will be backed by 5,500 private armed security contractors, often former members of U.S. special operations forces, more than double their current size. By next year, some 20,000 non-military personnel will be employed at two U.S. embassy branches, two consulates, and three police training centers, according to the U.S. ambassador.
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