State Department Needs Iraq Funding, Gates Says

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2011 — The Unit­ed States’ is at risk of los­ing its gains in Iraq if Con­gress doesn’t ful­ly fund the State Department’s mis­sion there, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said here today.
“If the State Depart­ment doesn’t get the mon­ey they’ve request­ed for Iraq, then we real­ly are in the soup on this,” Gates told the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee dur­ing a hear­ing about the Defense Department’s fis­cal 2012 bud­get request.

The mil­i­tary is draw­ing down its mis­sion in Iraq and is sched­uled to turn over lead­er­ship for the U.S. role there to the State Depart­ment in Octo­ber, with a mil­i­tary with­draw­al slat­ed by the end of the year.

While tes­ti­fy­ing about the DOD bud­get, Gates was asked about the tran­si­tion in Iraq. The Unit­ed States has spent bil­lions of dol­lars and lost near­ly 4,000 Amer­i­cans in Iraq since U.S. oper­a­tions began there in 2003, Gates not­ed.

“Here we are at the end game and it reminds me of the final scene in Char­lie Wilson’s War,” the sec­re­tary said, ref­er­enc­ing the motion pic­ture about the late congressman’s efforts to main­tain sup­port in Afghanistan after the Unit­ed States helped defeat the Sovi­et Union there. “We spent $1 bil­lion to dri­ve the Sovi­ets out, but we couldn’t get $1 mil­lion to build schools.” When the Unit­ed States went away, the Tal­iban took over.

If the State Depart­ment doesn’t have “a pres­ence through­out Iraq, then much of what we’ve done to get Iraq where they are is at risk,” the sec­re­tary said.

Already the tran­si­tion process in Iraq is being ham­pered by Con­gress’ fail­ure to pass the fis­cal 2011 Defense and State depart­ment bud­gets, Gates said, leav­ing the depart­ments to exist on con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion mon­ey.

“On a con­tin­u­ing res­o­lu­tion, the State Depart­ment can’t spend mon­ey to get ready right now,” he said. “There are facil­i­ties to be built, peo­ple to be hired… They can’t do any of that, and so we’re going to run out of time.”

Gates said a new State Depart­ment office in Bagh­dad is slat­ed to have 157 per­son­nel to advise, assist and devel­op Iraqi forces and over­see $13 bil­lion in U.S. mil­i­tary equip­ment sales to Iraq.

“I think you’ll find extra­or­di­nary sup­port all across the Depart­ment of Defense” for State’s fund­ing request, he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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