The Defense Drumbeat Blog

Mar 25 2013

Washington Post: A decade after Iraq invasion, America's voice in Baghdad has gone from a boom to a whisper

Disengagement from Iraq offers "sobering lessons as the United States continues to wind down its war in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, a process that looms as potentially more complex."

The Washington Post

March 23, 2013 
By Ernesto Londono 

Read full article here

"With no troops on the ground to project force and little money to throw around, the United States has become an increasingly powerless stakeholder in the new Iraq. It has failed to substantively rein in what it sees as government abuses that have the potential to spark a new sectarian war. It also has had little success in persuading Baghdad to stop tacitly supporting Iran’s lethal aid to Damascus, an important accelerant in the neighboring conflict."

The disengagement from Iraq after a war that cost Americans an estimated $1.7 trillion offers sobering lessons as the United States continues to wind down its war in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, a process that looms as potentially more complex.

“No one thinks America has influence now in Iraq,” Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak, the most senior Sunni in the coalition government, said in an interview. “America could still do a lot if they wanted to. But I think because Obama chose a line that he is taking care of interior matters rather than taking care of outside problems, that made America weak — at least in Iraq.”

 

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"The United States is dismantling the vestiges of a police training program once envisioned as its signature contribution to postwar Iraq, having come to terms with the fact that Iraqis had no interest in a multibillion-dollar investment designed to bolster the country’s troubled judicial system.

Plans to keep a robust diplomatic presence along a disputed frontier in northern Iraq that has kept Arabs and Kurds on a war footing were also abandoned, in large part because officials in Baghdad didn’t want the Americans there. Manpower at the fortresslike U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is dropping rapidly. The mission and its three consulates now have 10,500 people, most of them contractors, down from over 16,000 based in Iraq a year ago. By the end of the year, the number will fall to 5,500."

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“I would describe the policy as: Let’s try to keep a lid on Iraq with as few resources as possible and as little energy as we possibly can,” said Kenneth M. Pollack, an Iraq expert at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy. “Our influence has diminished enormously.”