WASHINGTON - Iraq questions the continued presence of large numbers of Americans on its soil, US lawmakers were warned on Thursday, even as the State Department plans to shrink the size of its mission by almost a third over the next 16 months.
Government experts told Congress that Iraq makes life difficult for the embassy in ways large and small, signaling ambivalence toward relations with Washington at a time when critics fear that the country is moving closer to Iran.
"The State Department and (Department of Defense) plan for a very large civilian-led presence in Iraq. But Iraqi commitment to that presence remains unclear," Michael Courts of the US Government Accountability Office told a House hearing.
There were also doubts about Iraq's desire to keep up "thousands" of costly reconstruction projects funded by US taxpayers, an ambitious multi-billion dollar program designed to leave an indelible "Made in America" stamp on post-invasion Iraq.