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American combat troops may have come home from Iraq, but the State Department is still in need of military-style protection, apparently. That's why they've started flying surveillance drones in the Iraqi skies over U.S. Embassy and consulates. Unsurprisingly, Iraq isn't exactly pleased.
The New York Times has a good look at the rising tensions in a story that focuses on the outrage among Iraqi officials over what they see as the U.S.'s affront to their sovereignty. It also looks like the State Department wants to expand its use of the unmanned and unarmed drones into other countries, including Indonesia and Pakistan. Usually, drone operations coming out of the U.S. government are the work of the Pentagon or the CIA. But now, they're becoming a highly prized diplomatic tool.
Of particular interest is this paragraph from the Times report:
The drones are the latest example of the State Department’s efforts to take over functions in Iraq that the military used to perform. Some 5,000 private security contractors now protect the embassy’s 11,000-person staff, for example, and typically drive around in heavily armored military vehicles.
The State Department is currently looking for private contractors to take over the management of the drones. According to the report, the U.S. government expects to have drones in the Iraq skies under the program for at least the next five years.