U.S. military activity in Iraq will end by the close of this year, President Barack Obama has pledged. Last fall he insisted Americans no longer were involved in combat there.
But that is not true. Fifty thousand U.S. troops remain in Iraq. Combat deaths continue to occur regularly. And U.S. officials have said they are willing to keep combat troops in Iraq after the Jan. 31 withdrawal "deadline" if the government in Baghdad approves.
Even if all troops are pulled out, the U.S. military role in Iraq will continue for years, perhaps decades, under an Obama administration plan.
In effect the White House and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plan to create a small, private army in Iraq, at a cost of billions of dollars.
In testimony earlier this summer, Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy outlined the scheme for members of Congress. Its foundation is hiring 5,100 private security personnel - mercenaries, in effect.
Much of the equipment used by the force will be left in Iraq by U.S. military personnel. Included will be aircraft and armored vehicles. About 4,000 - yes, 4,000 - pieces of equipment will be used.
The exact cost of the paramilitary force U.S. taxpayers will have to support has not been determined but three contracts for security personnel, totalling nearly $2.9 billion, already have been awarded.
Why is this force - one strong enough to defeat the armies of some small countries - needed? To guard U.S. diplomats, Kennedy told members of Congress. To get an idea of how much protection the State Department personnel will need in Iraq, consider that the agency requires only about 1,800 security employees for all the rest of its posts throughout the world.
Kennedy admitted to lawmakers the security force will be used for military-type operations under State Department orders.
That doesn't sound much like the U.S. combat role in Iraq ended last fall. Clearly, President Obama has found a way to claim he has kept his pledge to pull troops out of Iraq while not really keeping it.