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“Your version of history and mine are very different,” Mr. McCain shot back.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, New Hampshire Republican, said she is concerned about the 16,000 State Department staff and contractors, including thousands of private security forces, who would remain in the country next year after the departure of U.S. troops.

“Will they be secure?” she asked Mr. Panetta. “Can you assure this committee that the State Department will be able to perform this unprecedented task?”

The situation could be “a disaster waiting to happen,” she warned.

Mr. Graham and committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, asked about the fate of 3,400 Iranian dissidents in Camp Ashraf. U.S. forces disarmed the Iranian resistance force in 2003.

Iraqi forces have attacked the camp’s residents several times, and the Iraqi government is threatening to evict them by they end of the year.