Tuesday, November 2, 2010

State Dept: Obama is pulling Iraq into an abyss - endangering US diplomats

From the AP:
The Obama administration could be overstating what U.S. diplomats can do to contain Iraq's ethnic and sectarian tensions without U.S. military forces, a State Department audit concluded Tuesday, raising fresh concerns about the planned pullout of American troops next year.

The auditors also questioned whether American diplomats who remain behind will be adequately protected against insurgent violence, and their report faulted Washington for its planning of the transition from a U.S. military-led mission in Iraq to one run by American civilians in 2011.

The audit's findings echo worries expressed by some U.S. defense analysts and former diplomats. They say hard-won security gains in Iraq could crumble if U.S. forces leave on schedule.

In the latest outbreak of violence, bombings and mortar strikes killed dozens and wounded scores across Baghdad's mostly Shiite neighborhoods Tuesday...

[Snip]

Stephen Biddle, an Iraq watcher at the Council on Foreign Relations, said it will be difficult for U.S. diplomats to keep a lid on Sunni-Shiite and Arab-Kurd rivalries in the absence of a sizable American military presence...

The report... questioned whether the U.S. can meet President Barack Obama's goal of ensuring a safe work environment for remaining U.S. personnel in Iraq in 2012. "Security risks are expected to increase," the report said.

The... planning process "requires clearer and more timely high-level focus and policy guidance from Washington," including the White House, it said...

Arabs and Kurds have managed to avoid large-scale clashes since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, with U.S. troops playing a critical security role. The U.S. now has just under 50,000 troops in Iraq, down from a wartime high of 170,000...

"Does the United States risk overselling what it can and will accomplish?" the report asks. It does not explicitly answer that question but implies that the U.S. is promising more than it can deliver.

Ryan Crocker, ambassador to Iraq from 2007 to 2009, said last week that the U.S. military's departure from Iraq will likely create a security vacuum and set Iraq on a dangerous course...

"I worry that what we're seeing is a transition from a military lead to no lead," he said.

"Simply put, the capacity does not exist on the civilian side to take on the vast array of roles and missions that the military has so ably performed in Iraq."

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