Some 5,000 protesters took to the streets of the Northern Iraqi city of Mosul today calling on the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to resist US calls to extend the US military presence in the country beyond December.
The protesters included a number of top local leaders, who said they also wanted the government to follow through on promised reforms and released a number of detainees. The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) requires all US troops to exit the country by December 31, 2011.
But US officials have been pushing for that to be extended, saying that they can’t possibly leave the country by that date. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has called for keeping the troops there for years past 2012.
Maliki has repeatedly ruled out allowing the US troops to stay, insisting that the Iraqi soldiers are ready to replace them now. With top cleric Moqtada al-Sadr threating an open revolt if the troops stay, many fear a continued US presence would be far more of a harm than any benefit they might provide in training.
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