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Army of diplomats takes the lead in fractious Iraq


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Army of diplomats takes the lead in fractious Iraq

As the White House eagerly highlights the departure of U.S. combat troops from Iraq, the small army of American diplomats left behind is embarking on a long and perilous path to keeping the volatile country from slipping back to the brink of civil war.

Among the challenges are helping Iraq's deeply divided politicians form a new government; refereeing long-simmering Arab-Kurd territorial disputes; advising on attracting foreign investment; pushing for improved government services; and fleshing out a blueprint for future U.S.-Iraqi relations.

President Barack Obama also is banking on the diplomats _ about 300, protected by as many as 7,000 private security contractors _ to assume the duties of the U.S. military. That includes protecting U.S. personnel from attack and managing the training of Iraqi police, starting in October 2011.snip
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