Gates: U.S. Open to Talks on Post-2011 Presence in Iraq

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, Nov. 9, 2010 — Express­ing hope that the Iraqis are mak­ing progress in form­ing a new gov­ern­ment, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said today it will be up to the Iraqis, if they believe it nec­es­sary, to ask the Unit­ed States to keep troops there beyond the 2011 dead­line.

The Unit­ed States has made clear that it wants Iraq to form “an inclu­sive gov­ern­ment that rep­re­sents all of the major ele­ments of Iraqi soci­ety, and in a non­sec­tar­i­an way, so they can go for­ward as a nation togeth­er,” Gates said. “And it is our hope that that is the direc­tion that they are mov­ing in, tak­ing a fur­ther step toward a demo­c­ra­t­ic Iraq.”

Speak­ing dur­ing a news con­fer­ence here with Malaysian Defense Min­is­ter Ahmad Zahid Hami­di, Gates left the door open to dis­cus­sions about a con­tin­ued troop pres­ence in Iraq beyond the Dec. 31, 2011, dead­line.

“In terms of a future strate­gic rela­tion­ship beyond 2011, I would say that ini­tia­tive clear­ly needs to come from the Iraqis,” he said. “We are open to dis­cussing it.”

But Gates said he wouldn’t expect such a request, at least until the Iraqis have select­ed a pres­i­dent, prime min­is­ter and speak­er of the coun­cil of rep­re­sen­ta­tives and made min­is­te­r­i­al-lev­el appoint­ments.

“We will stand by and be ready to have that dis­cus­sion if and when they want to raise it with us,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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