Plans by the Obama administration to scale back the Central Intelligence Agency presence in Iraq because of challenges the CIA faces there is raising concerns that the drawdown could jeopardize U.S. national security down the line, the Wall Street Journal
The plans, which are still being reviewed, would cut the CIA’s presence in Iraq to 40 percent of wartime levels, officials told the Journal. During the war, Baghdad was the largest CIA station in the world, with more than 700 agency personnel in the country.
If the plans go forward, the drawdown would coincide with the possibility of a growing threat posed by al Qaeda in Iraq. The number of attacks by the terrorist group has risen this year, officials said, according to the Journal.
"A further diplomatic or intelligence drawdown in Iraq could jeopardize U.S. national security down the road if al Qaeda in Iraq is able to sustain — or increase — its activity," Seth Jones, a Rand Corp. counterterrorism specialist told the Journal. "The concern is that al Qaeda is able to use its Iraq branch to destabilize other countries in the region, and they are able to facilitate the movement of foreign fighters."
The scaling back of the CIA is part of a shift in U.S.-Iraq relations and shows the limits of President Barack Obama’s national-security strategy away from ground wars toward a focus on a combination of smaller intelligence operations and special operations. But those rely on cooperation from the host government, which is on the wane, according to the Journal.
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