"After extensive sectarian conflict during 2006-2008, but with U.S. troops still present, Iraq's political system evolved into relatively peaceful political competition and formation of cross-sectarian alliances. However, the dominant factions have, by several accounts, often exercised questionable use of key levers of power and legal institutions to arrest or intimidate their opponents. This infighting is based on the belief of many factions that holding political power may mean the difference between poverty and prosperity, or even life and death. […] The view of the Administration and others is that Iraqi factions, with U.S. and other help, will be able to work through the severe political disputes and ongoing violence, and will also be willing and able to resist increased Iranian influence in Iraq. The Administration states that U.S. training will continue using programs for Iraq similar to those with other countries in which there is no U.S. troop presence, and about 15,000 U.S. personnel, including contractors, remain in Iraq under State Department authority to exert U.S. influence. Continuing the security relationship in the absence of U.S. troops in Iraq, and developing the civilian bilateral relationship, was the focus of the U.S. visit of Prime Minister Maliki on December 12, 2011."
CRS Report for Congress, RS21968