President Barack Obama said last week that American troops will empty out of Iraq by New Years 2012. That doesn’t mean, however, that the United States’ presence will vanish completely.
Although the men and women of the US military will pack up from their barracks and return home this winter, the CIA is likely to continue clandestine intelligence operations in Iraq for a time to come, officials tells The Daily Beast this week. With counterterrorism initiatives and operations currently conducted by the Joint Special Operations Command and other organizations already being carried out under the radar, the footprints of American personnel on Iraq soil will most likely switch to more clandestine black-ops. Even if unnoticeable, it doesn’t mean that America’s presence will be nonexistent.
“My sense is that there will be some discussions about what can be given the CIA and whether some of the counterterrorism arrangements that exist today can be negotiated through a separate and secret channel,” Marisa Cochrane Sullivan, managing director of the Institute for the Study of War, tells The Daily Beast. Prior to President Obama’s unexpected troop withdrawal announcement on Friday, some administration officials had hoped that US servicemen would continue to operate out of Iraq, to an extent, into 2012 and beyond. Americans had hoped that those left behind into the new year would be granted immunity from Iraqi domestic law, to which Baghdad officials were not willing to grant. Conversations are expected to occur in the coming weeks between both parties to come to compromise on the terms for a sparse number of US personnel that will remain overseas, but Sullivan suggests that aside from military meet-ups, the CIA will conduct negotiations of their own to keep underground American presence alive and well after the war has been abandoned.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor added yesterday that the talks between the militaries of the two nations will discuss how to implement a strong security in Iraq “that meets our mutual interests.” He notes that tactical exercises and “regular coordination” might be on the table, but that US forces will not be permanently based in Iraq.
That decision comes, however, after the United States has invested around $2.4 billion in posts in Iraq, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. Currently the US embassy in Baghdad is home to 1,000 civilian officials and troops over the course of 21 buildings in 100 acres.
“This American embassy is massive,” former Reagan administration official Paul Craig Roberts tells RT. “It’s still there. It’s huge. There is nothing like it on the face of the earth. It must have some purpose. So we can’t really say that the Americans are not going to continue to control Iraq from behind the scenes.”
Roberts adds that if America is going to continue an occupation of Iraq in some form after the military withdrawal, Libyan citizens can expect similar results even after the recent death of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. "They certainly didn’t go through all the trouble to destroy Libya without handing it over,” he says. “There are agendas.”
“This idea that the U.S. military and CIA are somehow interchangeable is misinformed — they work together closely on some counterterrorism issues, but their missions, expertise, and authorities are fundamentally different,” one official speaking on condition of anonymity added to The Daily Beast.
In the other expected-to-end US operation overseas, President Obama has vowed to return American troops back home as he brings the war in Afghanistan to an end during his presidency as well. In the meantime, however, the administration has revealed plans to construct a $100 million prison on Afghan soil. The Human Rights First group recently wrote that the United States is “still imprisoning more than 2800 men outside the United States without charge or trial.” The institute being planned for Bagram, Afghanistan will be constructed to hold at least 2,000 detainees reads the contract for work issued by the US government.
The Daily Beast adds that the United States is also in talks with officials in Turkey to arrange to move gear from Iraq into the neighboring country. One official speaking anonymously suggests that the US will continue to deploy remote sensors and other counterterrorism technologies in Iraq even in 2012, though. One official reports, “We need to know what is going on all over Iraq, or at least in critical nodes,” further suggesting that a withdrawal of all US intelligence would be unlikely.