"The splits and dysfunctions within Iraq's government that have widened since mid-December 2011 have called into question the legacy of U.S. involvement. In line with the letter of the November 2008 bilateral U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement, President Obama announced on October 21, 2011, that U.S. negotiations with Iraqi leaders failed to extend the agreement to allow for the presence of any U.S. forces after 2011. […] The view of the Administration is that the United States is able to engage Iraq extensively without U.S. troops there, in order to help consolidate security, political, and economic progress and to help Iraq resist Iranian influence. The Administration states that U.S. training for Iraq's security forces is continuing, using programs for Iraq similar to those with other countries in which there is no U.S. troop presence. About 16,000 U.S. personnel, including contractors, remain in Iraq under State Department authority to exert U.S. influence. Perhaps because Iraqi leaders are increasingly emerging from U.S. tutelage, the State Department said in February 2012 that it is considering a significant reduction in U.S. personnel in Iraq. Some experts argue that, even though the U.S. civilian presence in Iraq remains large and active, Iraq is realigning itself in the region. Some see it moving closer to Iran, and they cite Iraq's reluctance to call for Iran's ally, Bashar Al Assad of Syria, to yield power amid major unrest. Others see Iraq trying to reestablish its historic role as a major player in the Arab world, and to do so Iraq has been trying to assuage fears of Sunni Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Iraq took a large step toward returning to the Arab fold by hosting an Arab League summit on March 27-29, 2012."
CRS Report for Congress, RS21968