Talks Continue On Post-2011 Troop Presence in Iraq

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2011 — Dis­cus­sions with the Iraqi gov­ern­ment about a U.S. troop pres­ence there after Dec. 31 con­tin­ue, with no deci­sions yet made, senior defense offi­cials said.

“Sug­ges­tions that a final deci­sion has been reached about our train­ing rela­tion­ship with the Iraqi gov­ern­ment are wrong,” Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary George Lit­tle said in a state­ment released Oct. 15. “Those dis­cus­sions are ongo­ing.”

The 2008 secu­ri­ty agree­ment between the Unit­ed States and Iraq spec­i­fies that the U.S. mil­i­tary mis­sion there will end Dec. 31, with all U.S. troops to leave by that date.

“We remain com­mit­ted to keep­ing our agree­ment with the Iraqi gov­ern­ment to remove all of our troops by the end of this year,” Lit­tle said.

“At the same time,” he con­tin­ued, “we’re build­ing a com­pre­hen­sive part­ner­ship with Iraq under the strate­gic frame­work agree­ment, includ­ing a robust secu­ri­ty rela­tion­ship, and dis­cus­sions with the Iraqis about the nature of that rela­tion­ship are ongo­ing.”

Lit­tle empha­sized today the U.S. com­mit­ment to a long, strate­gic rela­tion­ship with Iraq. Talks under way, he said, will help to deter­mine the scope and scale of that rela­tion­ship.

“The strate­gic rela­tion­ship with Iraq beyond 2011 is what is on the table,” he said.

The dis­cus­sions cen­ter on whether the Iraqis want U.S. forces to remain in Iraq as train­ers after Dec. 31, Pen­ta­gon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kir­by told reporters today. Kir­by refut­ed claims that details about such an arrange­ment have caused the talks to become con­tentious.

“This isn’t about try­ing to con­vince or per­suade either side,” he said. “This is about being there at Iraqi request.”

As talks con­tin­ue, U.S. Forces Iraq is mov­ing full speed ahead to repo­si­tion troops and equip­ment in accor­dance with the exist­ing secu­ri­ty agree­ment. U.S. forces are “com­plete­ly on track” to make a total mil­i­tary with­draw­al by the year’s end, Army Maj. Gen. Jef­frey S. Buchanan, U.S. Forces Iraq’s spokesman and direc­tor of strate­gic effects, told Pen­ta­gon reporters last week.

Rough­ly 39,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, down about 100,000 from Jan­u­ary 2009, offi­cials have said. In addi­tion, U.S. Forces Iraq has rede­ployed 1.6 mil­lion pieces of equip­ment, with 800,000 left to go.

(Lisa Daniel of Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice con­tributed to this arti­cle.)

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