US to draw down diplomats in Iraq in next 3-5 years

The US plans to pare back its vast diplomatic presence in Iraq in 3-5 years.

Washington: The United States plans to pare back its vast diplomatic presence in Iraq in 3-5 years after the US military leaves at the end of 2011, the likely next US ambassador there has said.

But Jim Jeffrey, now US ambassador to Turkey and nominated to go to Baghdad, told lawmakers that in the short term Washington would need to do "a lot of diplomatic work" to get Iraq "fully plugged into" regional relationships.

And the United States will ultimately rely on an embassy in Baghdad, two consulates, and a special office to coordinate military sales and training of Iraqi security forces, Jeffrey told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

For now, as the US military moves to complete its withdrawal by December 31, 2011, Washington will collapse 22 civilian-military "provincial reconstruction teams" into the consulates and three embassy branch offices, he said.

The branch offices will have "very robust political reporting, economic and assistance activities, rule of law as well, human rights monitoring," and will take over an Iraqi police training program from the military, he said.

"The police training program, the State Department will pick up from the US military in October of 2011. We`re looking at several hundred police advisers," he said.

"We see the three branch offices closing within three to five years and the police program also ending in roughly that time," said the diplomat.

The permanent US diplomatic presence will group the embassy in Baghdad, the two consulates, and an "embassy office of security cooperation" to be opened in 2011 "to help with training and equipping" Iraqi security forces, he said.

Jeffrey expressed optimism that Iraqi political leaders would resolve a four-month stalemate that has frozen efforts to form a government, saying past impasses in 2005 and 2006 had ended "after four to five months”.


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