Units of up to 300 U.S. troops have remained in Baghdad to train Iraqi security forces. They also help out in counter-terrorism operations.
As of the end of 2011 when the Status of Forces agreement with Iraq expired, all U.S. combat troops were withdrawn from Iraq except for those guarding the U.S. embassy. However, hundreds of other U.S. troops remain in a training and advisory capacity.
Originally, the U.S. had wanted to keep more troops in Iraq but the Iraqi government refused to accept conditions the U.S. wanted to impose, especially exemption of U.S. troops from Iraqi legal jurisdiction. Last month, the U.S. Congress passed a continuing resolution that did not authorize further funding for the U.S. units training Iraqi security forces. The authority for training the forces expired at the end of September.
Spokesperson for the Pentagon Lt. Colonel Wesley Miller said:“No personnel will return immediately to the United States on Oct. 1, 2012 while DoD is reviewing the effect of not being authorized under the Continuing Resolution to continue the training of Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) following expiration of the Iraqi Security Forces Fund (ISFF) authority on Sept. 30, 2012. The Department of Defense is reviewing the availability of other authorities that may authorize OSC-I to conduct training activities in Iraq.”
Instead of seeking new authorization through Congress it seems that the Pentagon is looking for some means to work around Congress and avoid any debate on the issue. "OSC-I" refers to the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq. Pentagon officials had warned legislators that the failure to extend the authorization for the program could force the withdrawal of 220 of 296 personnel it currently had in Iraq working with the Iraqis. Obviously, this did not sway Congress. However, just as obviously, there is no plan to withdraw those personnel.
The continuing resolution does not cut off all funding for Iraqi security forces, but it does cut off funding for the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) an elite Iraqi unit that reports directly to prime minister Maliki rather than through the Defense Ministry. In spite of the lagging economy and huge debt burden in the U.S. the Obama administration seems bound and determined to retain a military presence in Iraq.
UPDATE: Even though Congress did not include money for the training program in a resolution on Monday, the Pentagon has found $1.7 million in a special commanders initiative fund that will enable the program to continue for 90 days.
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