Here is a summary of America’s future role in Iraq, in the words of President Barack Obama: “Our commitment is changing — from a military effort led by our soldiers to a diplomatic effort led by our diplomats.”
And here is a note of caution about that promised change: “Current planning for transitioning vital functions in Iraq from the Department of Defense to the Department of State is not adequate for effective coordination of billions of dollars in new contracting, and risks both financial waste and undermining U.S. policy objectives.”
Obama’s statement came in an Aug. 2 speech in which he confirmed that by the end of this month, America’s combat role would end. The 50,000 American soldiers remaining in Iraq (down from a peak of almost 170,000) would advise, train and support Iraqi security forces. By the end of next year, the last U.S. soldier would come home.
The warning on inadequate planning and the danger of wasting billions was sounded in a mid-July report by the Commission on Wartime Contracting, a bi-partisan panel set up in 2008 in response to mounting concern over waste and inefficiencies on a monumental scale in dealing with ever-growing legions of private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The commission’s report challenged the widespread perception that Iraq is on the road to normality after years of floundering thanks to the right military strategy and democratic processes including elections. “In stable, peaceful countries, (the Department of) State can count on the host nation to meet emergency needs for security or other services,” the report said.