New Year, Big Changes for U.S. Troops in Iraq

A potentially explosive referendum on whether Kirkuk will be in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region is scheduled for July.

National elections will be held the end of the year. In many areas Sunnis will be participating for the first time.

U.S. Military Concerns

These include:

The use of violence as a political tool during the run-up to the provincial elections.

The use of violence to maintain power after the elections.

The collapse of a few poorly trained and equipped (or infiltrated) Iraqi security units.

The uncertainty of the restrictions of the SOFA, transition to Iraqi control, and how it might create opportunities for the enemy.

The large troop rotation in February and how it might create an opportunity for the enemy.

The unstable political environment and the infighting among both Shiite and Sunni power blocks.

The disintegration of the "Sons of Iraq" or Awakening Movement as a small part of this security force transitions to Iraqi Government control.

Unemployment and the lack of progress of the various "stability operations," now mostly run by private contractors, the Army Corps of Engineers and the State Department.

Growing friction between the Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government

Worries Over 'External Forces'

Iran could try to influence the outcome of elections or continue to support Shiite extremist groups.

There's also concern that Syria might allow more foreign fighters to cross its border.

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