The State Department is currently planning to assume leadership of the U.S. mission in Iraq on Oct. 1, 2011. Yet, recent proposals in Congress to cut further the department's budget for Iraq, following two reductions in planned spending last year, threaten to defeat a transition plan that, if not quite representing victory, offers the best hope of achieving an outcome acceptable to U.S. interests as well as to the Iraqi people.
The planned handoff of the U.S. mission in Iraq from the Defense Department to State includes positioning some 17,000 political, economic and security personnel under the authority of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. These personnel will engage with the Iraqis on a daily basis to help achieve U.S. goals in Iraq. As specified in the speeches and strategy documents of the Obama administration, these include for Iraq to become "sovereign, stable and self-reliant; with a government that is just, representative and accountable; that denies support and safe haven to terrorists; is able to assume its rightful place in the community of nations; and contributes to the peace and security of the region."
The plan is certainly bold. The State Department mission will be of unprecedented size and complexity, and for the first time in the department's history, State will assume responsibility for a number of Defense Department missions.