U.S. Decides it Doesn't Need 16,000 People in Iraq

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One thing we learned from conflicting reports about the United States' plan to shrink its diplomatic presence in Iraq was the sheer size of the "country within a country," as The Washington Post calls it: 16,000 Americans work or live there as staff or contractors, the Post points out, and the American presence "has a $6 billion budget, its own airline and three hospitals, and imports virtually all of its food."  In a nation that's just getting used to sovereignty after foreign troops (namely ours) occupied it for almost a decade, this scale seems excessive.

The New York Times reported Tuesday night that the U.S. would half its presence there. Both The Times and The Post reports made it clear that it would be primarily the massive flock of security, transportation, and other contractors, that got trimmed before cuts reached the 2,000 or so State Department staffers there. Though embassy spokesman Michael McClellan told The Times the number of actual diplomats was "subject to adjustment as appropriate."

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