'Rightsizing' the US Mission Iraq


QUESTION: You said it won’t be 50 percent, but have you come up with any sense of what it would be? And do you see Iraqis actually taking over security functions, whether static or movement security or any kind of security?

DEPUTY SECRETARY NIDES: I would – to be honest with you, I don’t know where the 50 percent number came from. But I am – it is what it is. But I think that the – I don’t know what the number is. What I – here’s the direction I gave people, okay? We made a commitment to try to reduce the dependency on contractors. There’s been a lot of press written about how many contractors we had. Much of that is security, but its food service, right? If I can get food purchasing – more food purchasing done in Iraq and not have to bring it in, that will dramatically decrease our dependency on contractors to do food service. And that goes through a lot of the service that we are providing now.

So my view of this is we will also look aggressively on perimeter security and how we manage that. But I should be honest with you, Karen. My – the only thing I worry about – the only thing I worry about is the security of our people. Okay? We have a diplomatic mission. We owe it to make sure that we fulfill the diplomatic mission that we set out to do when we made this transition. But the most important thing to do is to make sure that we are making sure that we have – our people are secure. And so I – as much as I would love to reduce – continue to reduce the numbers of people and the cost, I will not sacrifice the security of our people.

That said, I think as we go through this year, we’re going to see many, many opportunities to allow us to have a – the footprint that we can accomplish the goals around economic development and the OSC-I and the police training, the political engagement, with hopefully some fewer people and then also a lesser dependency on the contractors, which I think we all want to do. And we’ll do that. And it will take – it’s going to take time.

And what we’re not going to do is make kind of knee-jerk decisions. This has to be – there was several years of planning goes into these as the Embassy was stood up, and we will be very thoughtful as we begin moving – transitioning this is into a more – what I refer to as a normal-looking embassy. But that will take time, and so we’re going to be doing this very thoughtfully, and in consultation with the Congress, I mind you. I will have many conversations with the Congress, which we’re doing. And they get it. I mean, they totally understand what we’re trying to do.

MS. NULAND: Operator, next question.

Comments are closed.