The U.S. must spend billions of dollars this fiscal year to “reinforce Iraq’s progress” as America’s military mission transitions to a civilian-led effort, Vice President Joseph Biden said.
Since the withdrawal of about 100,000 U.S. troops over the last two years and the build-up of Iraqi security forces, “Iraq today is far safer and more stable than at any time since the outbreak of war in 2003,” Biden wrote in an op-ed column published today in the New York Times.
Outlining a civilian mission for the U.S. for the coming year, Biden said money is required to help Iraq’s leaders conduct a census, resolve disputed internal boundaries, pass a hydrocarbon law to guide the distribution of oil revenue, pass a fiscally responsible budget and stabilize the economy through foreign investment.
“That is why, even at this difficult economic time, we are asking Congress to fulfill our budget requests to support America’s continued engagement, including our broader diplomatic presence, a modernization plan for the Iraqi security forces and financing for a police development program,” Biden wrote.
The cost of the civilian effort is less than a third of the $15 billion the U.S. will save in the coming fiscal year from the troop drawdown.
The Defense Department spends about $10 billion or more a year for every 10,000 troops in Iraq, said Michael Casey, a member of the House Armed Services Committee’s staff.
There are now fewer than 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, focused on training. They are scheduled to leave by the end of next year. The number of U.S. military personnel in Iraq swelled to about 170,000 in 2006 and 2007 during the height of the war.
Biden said the weekly tally of violent incidents in Iraq has dropped to about 160 from almost 1,600 in 2007.
“Nevertheless, Iraq’s security forces are not yet ready to operate fully on their own, and we must continue to support them,” he said.
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