Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said there was “at least some chance” that the US might speed up its withdrawal of troops this year if Iraqi and Kurdish leaders settle their differences. This might mean the US would remove another 3,000 to 4,000 of its 132,000 troops, a level which the Pentagon is currently planning to maintain through early 2010.
The comments were almost the exact opposite of those made by Vice Presdient Joe Biden during his Iraq visit earlier this month, when he suggested the US might speed its pullout if the nation reverted to the sectarian and ethnic violence that has wracked the nation since the 2003 US invasion.
There has been considerable dispute between the Iraqi national government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in recent months, as the largely autonomous region attempts to annex neighboring parts of Iraq.
The national government has attempted to curb the region’s unilateral moves on its oil industry, amid fears that it will eventually attempt to secede from Iraq. The KRG Prime Minister has even warned of the prospect of open warfare between the Iraqi military and the KRG’s Peshmearga forces.
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