Question: Approximately how many security contractors will be required in Iraq to protect the U.S. diplomatic mission next year?
Answer: In light of the high threat environment in Iraq over the past several years, we expect that in 2012 there will be approximately 5,000 such security personnel to help protect our diplomatic presence in various locations around the country and ensure our capability to interact successfully with the Iraqi Government and people to build an enduring partnership of benefit to both countries and the region. We expect this number of security personnel to noticeably decrease in the following years as security conditions continue to improve, as they have done steadily since 2007.
In addition, the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq (OSC-I) will be part of our strategic engagement and partnership with Iraq. This office will require additional security personnel to protect facilities and staff. The exact number and final disposition of these security requirements are still under review.
The United States is committed to an enduring partnership with Iraq, which can be a strong ally in a strategic region of the world critical to our national security. This Administration has placed a priority in strengthening our partnership by maintaining a strong diplomatic presence on the ground in Iraq and is committed to ensuring the safety of the men and women who make up that presence. Utilizing security personnel to assist U.S. diplomatic security officials in protecting Americans serving abroad is not a new practice; it has been part of civilian operations in Iraq and elsewhere in the past and is an important component of security operations at many of our embassies and consulates around the world today.
As Iraq further develops its democratic institutions and improves its security capacity, our security presence will be reduced and operations will be comparable to other countries around the world where we have large missions and vital interests.