Thursday, 14 April 2011

US troops in Iraq: Will they stay or will they go?

Leader of Al-Iraqiya party Iyad Allawi has called on Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki to declare the status of US Forces within the country. Allawi voiced concern that the agreement between Baghdad and Washington was unclear, and noted that national partnership among the various factions is yet to be put into practice.

In a meeting with EU Ambassadors to Baghdad, Allawi said Al-Maliki is yet to clarify the US-Iraqi security agreement. He added that many were unsure whether the US troops would remain or withdraw from Iraq, or the timescale for either plan of action.

Following Allawi's comments, a senior US military official said US troops are expected to withdraw from the country at the end of the year, adding that Iraqi leaders should not expect them to return to mediate the security situation.

According to AFP, the anonymous security official, said: "If we left, and this is the health warning we would give to anybody, be careful about assuming that we will come running back to put out the fire if we don't have an agreement."

The official also noted that it would be wise of Iraqi leaders to request US troops to remain and train the Iraqi armed forces, a suggestion first made by US Defence Secretary Chief Robert Gates during his recent visit to Baghdad.

The US presence in Iraq remains a contentious issue, and one which seems no closer to a resolution. Gates spokesman Geoff Morrell said the Pentagon chief's message to Iraqi leaders was: "You all need to figure out what you need of us and what's politically feasible and we're ready to work with you on how to address those needs."

Speaking about the situation last year, Iraqi armed forces chief of staff, Gen Babaker Zebari, said the US withdrawal at the end of 2011 would be premature, adding that his forces would be unable to maintain security within the country unaided before 2020.

Sources: Alsumaria, AFP, Press TV

For more news and expert analysis about Iraq, please see Iraq Focus.

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