[QODLink]
Middle East
Iraq 'to request' US troops to stay
Leon Panetta, Obama's pick to head Pentagon, says Baghdad likely to ask for continued US presence beyond 2011.
Last Modified: 10 Jun 2011 01:47



Iraq will ask the US to keep its troops in the country beyond the 2011 withdrawal deadline set by US President Barack Obama, Leon Panetta, the White House's pick to lead the Pentagon, said.

"It's clear to me that Iraq is considering the possibility of making a request for some kind of (troop) presence to remain there," Panetta said, adding that he had "every confidence" the request would be "forthcoming at some point."

The outgoing CIA chief told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that the US should agree once the request is made.

"It really is dependent on the prime minister and on the government of Iraq to present to us what is it that they need, and over what period of time, in order to make sure that the gains that we've made in Iraq are sustained." Panetta told the committee.

Outgoing US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has publicly suggested that Iran is another reason to keep US forces in Iraq.

Washington accuses Iran of supporting Shia groups, a charge Tehran denies, and Iraqi Sunnis view Iran's intentions in Iraq with enormous suspicion.

Gates said last month that a continued US military presence in Iraq would be "reassuring" to Gulf states.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's coalition government is debating whether to ask Washington to keep some of the 47,000 US troops in Iraq, if only in a training and advisory role.

Maliki has called for a "mutual and unified national stand" on the issue by August 1 and has criticised other groups in the coalition for either not defining their position or using the issue to attack him and other groups.

US and Iraqi military commanders are concerned Iraq's armed forces may not be fully ready to defend the country alone, with Washington pointing to gaps in Iraqi air defence, intelligence fusion, logistics and more.

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Israel's Operation Protective Edge is the third major offensive on the Gaza Strip in six years.
Muslims and Arabs in the US say they face discrimination in many areas of life, 13 years after the 9/11 attacks.
At one UN site alone, approximately four children below the age of five are dying each day.
Featured
The conservative UMP party suffers from crippling internal divisions and extreme debt from mismanagement.
More than fifty years of an armed struggle for independence from Spain might be coming to an end in the Basque Country.
After the shooting-down of flight MH17, relatives ask what the carrier has learned from still-missing MH370.
Human rights and corporate responsibility prompt a US church to divest from companies doing business with Israel.
Afghan militias have accumulated a lengthy record of human-rights abuses, including murders and rapes.
join our mailing list