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June 15, 2014

America’s presence in Iraq

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is the largest in the world, but America’s presence in Iraq has been shrinking. Some questions and answers about America’s role in Iraq, where the U.S. military fought an eight-year war that ousted President Saddam Hussein and cost hundreds of billions of dollars and more than 4,400 U.S. lives:

Q. How many U.S. troops are in Iraq?

A. There have not been any American combat forces in Iraq since the U.S. military mission ended in December 2011. There are a little over 100 U.S. military personnel in a section of the U.S. Embassy that coordinates U.S. foreign military sales to Iraq. It is called the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq and is headed by Army Lt. Gen. John M. Bednarek. That office is at the forefront of U.S. efforts to help the Iraqi government further develop its security forces. More than 100 U.S. Marines provide security at the embassy.

Q. Do U.S. troops still train Iraqi forces in the field?

A. No. The Obama administration had proposed providing troops for that purpose before the U.S. departure in 2011, but Baghdad rejected Washington’s insistence that its troops be granted immunity for prosecution while in the country. So what remained after 2011 was the small group that is coordinating security assistance. One of the largest training missions was based at the air base in the city of Balad, about an hour northwest of Baghdad, where three planeloads of Americans were evacuated this week as insurgents worked their way toward Baghdad.

Q. How big is the U.S. Embassy?

A. There are roughly 5,000 U.S. personnel in the embassy, making it the largest U.S. diplomatic post in the world. Until the recent burst of insurgent violence, the Obama administration had been planning to reduce the size of the embassy. At this point, it’s unclear whether that plan will be carried out, speeded up, or scrapped.

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