Budget constraints challenge State's continued presence in Middle East

Tuesday - 2/21/2012, 9:52am EST

Stephanie Sanok, senior fellow with the international security program, Center for Strategic and International Studies

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The fiscal 2013 budget does not fully address the shift in U.S. operations in Iraq from the Defense Department to the State Department, according to one international security expert.

The request includes funds for training Iraqi forces, for example, but is lacking in economic, development and political areas, said Stephanie Sanok, senior fellow with the international security program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"I see that being replicated in Afghanistan," Sanok said in an interview with The Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

The Baghdad embassy faces a 10 percent cut, The Washington Post reports. Reuters reports about 16,000 people involved in the American diplomatic effort will be in Iraq. About 2,000 will be diplomats and federal workers and the rest will be contractors.

A challenge in Iraq is "Iraqis aren't as amenable to U.S. forces or U.S. diplomats going around the country," Sanok said. Recent news reports have indicated diplomats must stay in the Baghdad embassy and get permission to go outside, raising questions of diplomats' effectiveness, she added.

The administration's budget request reflects the Pentagon's strategic guidance to shift focus to the Middle East and Asia and move away from a presence in Europe and Latin America. Sanok said the budget includes $770 million for a Middle East North Africa Incentive Fund should there be another Arab Spring.

"From my perspective, if something happens in Syria in the coming months, $700 million is a drop in the bucket, so I'm not sure what this money will be used for," Sanok said.

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