‘Rightsizing’ the US Mission Iraq

MS. NULAND: And for those of you who aren’t wonked up on Iraq, Office of Security Cooperation is what OSC-I is.

We have time for one last question, Operator. Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And I have a question from Matthew Lee from the Associated Press. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Yeah. Hi.

DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: Hi.

QUESTION: Thanks. You say that you’ve been very clear about this with everybody, but apparently not, because that’s why this 50 percent number is floating around – I presume – that’s floating around in Baghdad. And whether or not it’s true or not, I’m wondering if it isn’t, in fact, the case if you are simply getting rid of the expensive contractors and replacing them with local contractors. While I see a reduction in cost, I don’t see a net reduction in contractors.

DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: Oh, well that – yeah. Listen, we’re not there to make – I mean, listen. We will go – we’ll go contractor by contractor, we’ll try to figure out over time what goods we can purchase locally in which we will not rely upon goods that are coming in over the border.

But I think the more – which – and I certainly appreciate the question – I think you also should recognize the fact we were spending last year almost $50 billion through DOD, and we’re now spending approximately $5.5 billion or – I mean, correct my numbers, but in that ballpark, right? For the taxpayers, okay, they’ve had a very positive gain. Okay? That said, I think most of us would agree that the – if you look at what’s happened in Iraq over the last month and a half, our political engagement there has been at the top end of the scale. The engagement of Jim Jeffrey and Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden and Barack – President Obama and all the players have been very strong and has been really done by the strength of our diplomatic presence there.

But listen, I think the reality is, as I said at the onset, my hope is that as we go through this next year, I’ll be having conversations which you’ll say, listen, we had X thousands of contractors. We have Y now because we are procuring more of our goods in Iraq, or we have concluded that we – the footprint that we currently have, we can have a smaller footprint. We don’t need as big a footprint. So consequently, we don’t need as many, quote, “static guards.” I mean, that’s what every good operation does. We should be – you – people should be pushing us all the time to continue to evaluate over the next couple years, which we will be doing.

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