In an announcement that doesn’t directly impact the US troop presence, but which some see as a hint toward openness by the Maliki government, NATO today announced that Iraq has approved keeping NATO “trainers” in the country through the end of 2013.
Not only did the Maliki government agree to let them stay, they agreed to give them “protection privileges” while operating in Iraq and to pay part of the costs of their continued presence.
US officials seem to be hoping to negotiate similar terms with the Iraqis, though the massive death toll of the US occupation and the threat of a new anti-US insurgency makes approving them a much more complicated matter than the tiny NATO force.
Still, the Obama Administration is believed to be planning to keep not only a significant force inside Iraq, officially labeled “trainers,” but a number of combat troops in neighboring Kuwait to launch offensives against targets inside Iraq at a moment’s notice.
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