Middle East News
US: No decision on US advisors remaining in Iraq past 2011
Oct 17, 2011, 20:57 GMT
Washington - The United States and Iraq have made no decision about military advisors or combat troops remaining in the country beyond the current withdrawal deadline at the end of December, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Monday.
Around 50,000 US soldiers currently in Iraq are supposed to leave the country by the end of 2011, under a Status of Forces Agreement negotiated in 2008.
'We're going to strive to build a comprehensive partnership with Iraq under the Strategic Framework Agreement, and that includes a security relationship,' Toner said. 'Discussions with Iraqis about the nature of that relationship are ongoing.
There were reports last week that the Iraqi government would not agree to immunity for any troops that remain after December. Washington has insisted on immunity from Iraqi prosecution for any troops remaining into 2012.
'Despite some of the reports from this weekend, there's been no final decision,' Toner said.
'We remain committed to keeping our agreement with the Iraqi government to remove all of our troops by the end of the year. But as to what our future security arrangement may look like, those discussions are still ongoing.'
Toner declined to provide details about the talks, including negotiations over immunity issues, 'but certainly ... we're always going to ensure that we have appropriate protections for our people.'
Broadcaster CNN reported over the weekend that the Texas-based Fourth Brigade Combat Team, First Armoured Division, would be brought home just weeks after arriving in August in Iraq, instead of a planned 12-month deployment.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said last week that Iraqi politicians were willing to keep 5,000 US troops in the country as trainers after 2011, without granting them immunity. Iraqi Army units had reported that they were unable to operate recently imported modern weapons, making it necessary for some US soldiers to stay behind as trainers, Talabani said.
Shiite militant cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose armed followers fought US troops in the years following the 2003 invasion to topple Saddam Hussein's regime, has threatened that US troops staying past the end of December will be fought as occupation forces.
Toner emphasized that the withdrawal issues, including timetables for troop relocations, could not be decided by the United States alone.
'Iraq's our partner in this, and they're having a democratic process at play,' he said. 'They're discussing the issue actively, and we continue to negotiate based on that.'
Toner noted that security personnel including contractors serving as part of the US embassy and other diplomatic missions are covered by standard diplomatic arrangements.
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