US mission in Iraq 'will be safe'

2011-02-04 08:20
Washington - The US envoy to Baghdad and the senior US commander in Iraq assured sceptical lawmakers on Thursday that the US diplomatic mission there will be well protected after US troops withdraw in late 2011.

A private security force some 5 500 strong will protect the large US diplomatic presence in Iraq, US Ambassador James Jeffrey told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Jeffrey and Lieutenant General Lloyd Austin, the commander of US military forces in Iraq, said they were confident that the force was adequate, and that Iraq will remain stable once US troops have departed.

Both also said they were confident Iraq's US-trained military and police could maintain order once US troops exit. Iraqi security forces "have a good capability" to confront Shiite extremist groups and Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Austin said.

Republican Senator John McCain, however, was not convinced.

'Deeply concerned'

"I'm deeply concerned about this issue of complete US withdrawal," said McCain, a strong supporter of the 2007-2008 military "surge" in Iraq.

McCain questioned the Iraqi military's capacity to use high-tech weapons to pinpoint targets and avoid unnecessary civilian deaths, and its ability to build an air force without US help.

McCain also said he was "very concerned" about radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and his close ties with Iran.

The fiery Sadr gained widespread popularity among Shi'ites in the months after the 2003 US-led invasion, and his Mahdi Army militia battled US and Iraqi government forces in several bloody confrontations.

Sadr suspended Mahdi Army activities in August 2008, after major US-supported Iraqi assaults on its strongholds in Baghdad and southern Iraq.

Sceptical

Sadr came to Iraq in early January after four years of self-imposed exile in Iran, but returned to Iran after just two weeks.

Austin and Jeffrey also said they had no indication the Iraqis want the US military to remain beyond 2012 - shattering a long-held assumption in official Washington.

Republican senator Lindsey Graham was sceptical about the strength of a private protection force.

"Would it make sense financially, security-wise, to have a military footprint left behind, if the Iraqis request, to continue to provide security for US State Department officials and others?" he asked.

Austin insisted the private security force would be "adequate."

'Critical moment'


Starting in 2012, the US presence in Iraq will consist of up to 20 000 civilians at sites that include two embassy branches, two consulates, and three police training centres. The figures include armed private security personnel, support staff and diplomats.

Currently there are 2 700 armed security contractors in Iraq, Jeffrey told the senators.

Austin said US military advisers and trainers would stay to support the Iraqi military with US-made equipment such as M1A1 tanks, military aircraft and patrol ships. He did not give a figure, but said they would not include combat troops.

Just 50 000 US troops are currently in Iraq, down from a peak of more than 170 000 and ahead of the full withdrawal in late 2011.

"We face a critical moment now in Iraq, where we'll either...finish the job and build upon the sacrifices made, or we will risk core US national security interests," Jeffrey told the senators.

'Historic opportunity'

He described it as "a historic opportunity and a critical window to help Iraq emerge as a strategic partner and a force for stability and moderation in a troubled region".

The government of then-president George W Bush agreed to the withdrawal terms with the administration of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in November 2008.
Read more on:    john mccain  |  nuri al-maliki  |  george w bush  |  moqtada al-sadr  |  iraq  |  us
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

Summer Survey!
Great ideas for the best summer sandwiches!
Christmas lingerie to make this festive season the best one ever!
13 things you might not know about Disneyland

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

At last you are able to see the light. You are able to break through obstacles in an innovative and original way. Visualisation is...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.