The last 24,000 U.S. troops are scheduled to leave Iraq in the next few weeks so that most can be home before Christmas.
The departure is required by the 2008 Iraq-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement signed by Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and then-President George W. Bush and approved by the Iraqi parliament, giving it the status of law.
Meanwhile, don’t believe those agonized voices on Capitol Hill complaining that “having won the war” President Obama is “about to lose the peace” because he didn’t negotiate well enough with Maliki to allow 10,000 to 15,000 U.S. troops to remain.
There will be a U.S. military presence. The Office of Security Cooperation (OSC), operating under the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, will have several hundred military personnel, and at least an equal number or more U.S. contractors, who will work with Iraqi security forces. Ongoing negotiations with Iraq about OSC activities will determine exact staffing numbers.
Normally, such an office would focus on training for the $8 billion in equipment that Iraq has purchased from U.S. companies. Under current plans, the OSC will do much more.
Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the other roles Tuesday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. He called the OSC in Iraq “a relatively small training and advisory contingent” that “will advise the ISF [Iraq Security Forces] in closing their capability gaps, assist in the expansion of their training programs, and facilitate their procurement of new equipment.”
Once the OSC agreement is completed, Dempsey said, other negotiations will determine “what exactly are additional areas where we can be of assistance, what level of trainers do they need, what can we do with regards to CT [counterterrorism] operations, what will we do on exercises, joint exercises.”
Working out of the embassy and 10 military bases, “We will be embedded with them as trainers not only tactically, but also at the institutional level,” Dempsey said.