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)