US, Iraq reach long-term security cooperation pact

DOD policy chief James N. Miller, acting Undersecretary of State for International Security Rose Gottemoeller and acting Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dlimi signed the agreement, which dictates the U.S. security role in Iraq for the next five years, the Pentagon's American Forces Press Service (AFPS) reports. 


ADVERTISEMENT
The deal was reached during a meeting of the U.S. and Iraqi Defense and Security Joint Coordination Committee in Baghdad on Thursday. The timing of the deal comes near the one-year anniversary of the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from the country. 

Details of the pact will outline a number of cooperative efforts between Washington and Iraq in areas like joint U.S.-Iraqi military operations and counterterrorism and intelligence-sharing capabilities, according to recent reports. 

The agreement will also facilitate military-to-military exchanges between senior leaders from both countries, as well as guide efforts to improve training and education of Iraq's national security forces. 

Aside from coming to terms on the new bilateral military cooperation pact, U.S. and Iraqi officials also discussed increased American investment in the country's armed forces during Thursday's meeting. 

Miller and Gottmoeller explored options for possible foreign military sales of M-1 Abrams tanks and F-15 Fighting Falcons to the Iraqi army and air force respectively, according to AFPS. 

U.S. and Iraqi officials did not go into detail regarding the specific quantities of American tanks and warplanes Baghdad is considering. But the proposed arms deal would cover the weapon systems, as well as the associated training and material needed to maintain the weapons. 

Some lawmakers have criticized the Pentagon and White House over its handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, as Congress continues to debate how best to pull American forces out of Afghanistan. 

Washington’s decision to virtually abandon Iraq with little to no residual U.S. presence to support the country’s fledgling security forces has resulted in rampant violence that threatens to tear the nation apart, according to Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

“That ended up being a mistake,” he told The Hill on Tuesday. “We don’t want Afghanistan to suffer the same way.” 

In September, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the floundering security situation in Iraq has left the country "ripe for violence," particularly in areas where a resurgent al Qaeda has begun a violent push to reassert control. 

In the past year since the American pullout from Iraq, the security situation in the country has devolved into a "volatile situation" for U.S. military leaders and diplomats overseeing the country's postwar transition, Stuart Bowen, the Pentagon's special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, told House lawmakers in June. 

"The year began violently in January, [but] March ... saw the least violent month since 2003. So it's a very volatile situation," Bowen told members of the House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations.

But Peter Verga, chief of staff for DOD's policy undersecretary, told lawmakers at the same hearing that the strategic goals for Iraq laid out by the White House were in reach, despite Bowen's assessment. 

"We are now at a point where the strategic dividends of our efforts are within reach," Verga said.