WASHINGTON – The US ambassador in Baghdad, James Jeffrey, on Tuesday urged the Senate for the means to “finish the job” in Iraq after the complete withdrawal of American troops at the end of the year.
“The Department of State is ready to take the lead. But we need the support and resources to finish the job,” Jeffrey told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
He evoked “a historic opportunity” to find in Baghdad a “strategic partner and a force for stability” in the region, but warned a sudden drop in the US effort could allow Al-Qaeda and other “dangerous” influences to fill the void.
“We need to have platforms around the country to carry out key transitional missions for the next three to five years,” Jeffrey said.
“These include work, political, economic, security and other officials throughout the country, especially in key areas, such as Kirkuk and Mosul.”
Jeffrey said the State Department budget for Iraq would continue to increase but that it was far less than the military budget, which is now decreasing with its declining role.
The committee, chaired by John Kerry, a former presidential candidate, published a report on Iraq raising questions about the transition from the US military to civilian presence.
“It is unclear whether the State Department has the capacity to maintain and protect the currently planned diplomatic presence without a degree of US military support,” it concluded.
“Uncertainty about the nature of US military presence in Iraq after 2012 is complicating all other aspects of the transition and must be clarified,” it said.
“The bureaucratic integration between the Departments of Defense and State remains incomplete, and the unity of effort in Baghdad has not been matched in Washington,” it said.
“A creative and sustainable funding mechanism is needed to pay for the diplomatic mission in Iraq,” it added.