Although the organization is certainly weaker than it was at its peak five years ago and is unlikely to regain its prior strength, American and Iraqi analysts said the Qaeda franchise is shifting its tactics and strategies — like attacking Iraqi security forces in small squads — to exploit gaps left by the departing American troops and to try to reignite sectarian violence in the country…

The Qaeda affiliate’s nascent resurgence has helped fuel a debate between some Pentagon officials on one side, who are seeking a way to permit small numbers of American military trainers and Special Operations forces to operate in Iraq, and some White House officials on the other, who are eager to close the final chapter on a divisive eight-year war that cost the lives of more than 4,400 troops.

Iraqi analysts express fears that ties between Al Qaeda and members of the former ruling Baath Party may be re-forming. “The government is afraid from an alliance between Qaeda and Baath precisely in this time, after the American withdrawal from Iraq,” said Ehssan al-Shemari, a political science professor at Baghdad University. “The security issue is the biggest challenge for the government in the next stage.”…

Although the United States is withdrawing all but a handful of its remaining 33,000 troops, leaving a few to guard the American Embassy, both governments are discussing a continuing military partnership. Among the main American goals is for the Iraqi government to approve a contingent of American Special Forces that would train and assist Iraqi security forces, according to two American officials