End of Iraq Combat Mission Signals Beginning of New Challenges

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"This is not a country that needs a little more time. This is a country that has made no progress toward formation of government since March," said Marina Ottaway, director of the Middle East program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "If anything, it's becoming clearer and clearer that all sides are rooted in their position."

President Obama to Make Iraq Speech Tonight

Domestically, cost is a significant issue for the Obama administration. At a time when the economy is the foremost concern on the minds of Americans and politicians, there is little impetus to invest more in a war that occupied most of the attention of the previous administration.

Because of cost restraints, the State Department has consolidated much of its operations, nixing plans for several embassies.

"I think there is a certain amount of Iraq fatigue, not only among the American public but among congressmen and senators, about what needs to be done to fully fund this effort," said Charles W. Dunne, a scholar at the Middle East Institute and director for Iraq at the National Security Council between 2005 and 2007.

Several members of Congress have argued that Iraqis should bear the bulk of the responsibility for their security efforts, especially with the United States increasing its presence in Afghanistan. Obama tonight is expected to echo the same sentiment.

"This redoubles the efforts of the Iraqis. They will write the next chapter in Iraqi history, and they will be principally responsible for it," Gibbs said. "We will be their ally, but the responsibility of charting the future of Iraq first and foremost belongs to -- to the Iraqis."

Another issue is the increased demand for private contractors in Iraq. The State Department will double to 7,000 the number of private security contractors it employs after the U.S. military completely withdraws its troops at the end of 2011.

Contractors, especially those that provide security, have a tumultuous history in Iraq. The biggest security firm, Blackwater, came under intense fire in September, 2007, when a shooting incident involving its guards escorting a State Department convoy left 17 Iraqi civilians dead.

"State Department has least capacity to oversee contractors" and to hold them accountable to taxpayer dollars and make sure they fulfill their contracts, Fontaine said.

"It becomes much more complicated at a time when the number of government personnel is going down and not up," he added. The responsibility for contractors is "being increasingly owned by the government agency that has got least capacity to oversee these things."

President Obama to Make Iraq Speech Tonight

The end of the combat mission comes as the Iraq war becomes increasingly unpopular with Americans. In an August USA Today poll, 60 percent of Americans said the situation in Iraq was not worth going to war over, and a similar number felt the war did not make the United States any safer from terrorism.

But the president also has his fair share of critics. One of the chief ones, former Alaska governor and military mom Sarah Palin tweeted Monday: "Tues:Obama Iraq speech;poor leadership if this fierce opponent of the surge can't give credit where credit's due.Credit due GW,McCain,troops."

Republicans say their party should be credited for bringing about this milestone.

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