May 23, 2012:
Iraq wanted all American troops out of the country by the end of last year but they didn't want to lose the use of U.S. troops for training and advising their combat commanders. So the U.S. did what it has increasingly been doing with countries wanting American military training; it brought in contract personnel. There are 157 American military officers assigned to the American embassy in Iraq (and are technically diplomatic personnel) but most of the training assistance and advising is done by 600 retired American military officers and NCOs. Since the end of the Cold War this has been an increasingly common way to make American military training available. Not only are the retired personnel more experienced (and older) than active duty troops, they are not irritated by having their military careers interrupted by "training duty" (which was never held in very high regard by most active duty troops).
Many of these contract trainers have combat experience in Iraq and are familiar with the culture and language. The Iraqis see these guys as "guests", not "occupation troops" and that makes for a much smoother relationship. The Iraqis are well aware of how important superior training was to the American success in combat and the ease with which they destroyed Saddam's troops, thousands of Sunni terrorists, and Shia militiamen. The Iraqis know they can acquire similar military skills and that the American trainers can help make it happen.