State Dept Planning to Command Small Army in Iraq

Posted: Jul 22, 2010 5:01 PM
McClatchy is reporting that the U.S. State Department is looking to broadly expand its own power into military operations in Iraq.  According to the news service, in just over a year's time, State Department contractors in Iraq "could be driving armored vehicles, flying aircraft, operating surveillance systems, even retrieving casualties if there are violent incidents and disposing of unexploded ordnance." 

I'm picturing diplomats running around in their suits and ties disarming bombs.  Seriously, what's up with this?

Under the terms of a 2008 status of forces agreement, all U.S. troops must be out of Iraq by the end of 2011, but they'll leave behind a sizable American civilian presence, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the largest in the world, and five consulate-like "Enduring Presence Posts" in the Iraqi hinterlands.

Iraq remains a battle zone, and the American diplomats and other civilian government employees will need security. The U.S. military will be gone. Iraq's army and police, despite billions of dollars and years of American training, aren't yet capable of doing the job.

The State Department, better known for negotiating treaties and delivering diplomatic notes, will have to fend for itself in what remains an active danger zone.

The arrangement is "one more step in the blurring of the lines between military activities and State Department or diplomatic activities," said Richard Fontaine of the Center for a New American Security, a Washington research center. "This is no longer (just) the foreign service officer standing in the canape line, and the military out in the field."

"The State Department is trying to become increasingly expeditionary," he said.

What do you think?  Is this just a political ploy so the administration can say our military has left Iraq when, in fact, we're still very much there? 

Perhaps if it's still an "active danger zone," we're leaving a little prematurely?  Maybe we should keep our eyes on victory rather than creating new questionable roles for State Department bureaucrats...?