Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Iraq War: Why US Military Withdrawal Might Not Happen in 2011

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Iraq War: Why US Military Withdrawal Might Not Happen in 2011

Article excerpt

The US military is scheduled to leave Iraq in December 2011, ending its involvement in the Iraq war. But it looks increasingly likely that Iraq will ask for some US troops to stay.

It is looking increasingly likely that American troops will stay in Iraq beyond December 2011 scheduled date of withdrawal for the US military - a prospect that appears to be gaining bipartisan support in Congress.

One congressman suggested Thursday that the politically acceptable size of the force that would remain in Iraq "could be 20,000."

Senior US officials have recently expressed concern about the ability of contractors and the State Department to take over the responsibilities that the Pentagon currently carries out Iraq, including everything from providing security to maintaining intelligence networks. Under the terms of the US mission in Iraq, however, the US military could stay only at the request of the Iraqi government.

Top Pentagon officials said Thursday that the Iraqi government shares some of their concerns.

"There have been a number of informal conversations with the Iraqis about this," Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Senate Armed Services Committee.During these talks, the Iraqi government indicated that it "is very open to a continuing presence that would be larger where we could help the Iraqis for a period of time," Mr. Gates said.

Three concerns

He cited three primary areas of US concern with Iraqi military operations as the Pentagon prepares for the pullout of its troops by the year's end:

- The Iraqi military's ability to exploit intelligence it collects

- Its capabilities with logistics and maintenance of its vehicles.

- The burgeoning Iraqi Air Force's ability to protect its own air space.

"I'm not actually concerned about the stability of the country," Gates told the committee. "But I am concerned about their ability to address these issues in particular. …

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