To comply with current law, the US has three months to completely withdraw from Iraq. But on Tuesday Iraq’s foreign minister said he believes there will soon be a final agreement on keeping thousands of US “trainers” in Iraq past the December deadline outlined in the Status of Forces Agreement.
“We’re looking for October for these talks to move forward,” Iraq’s foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari told Associated Press. The expected green light for a remaining American presence would be the culmination of months of heavy pressure on the Iraqi leadership from an insistent Obama administration.
“I think we will get an agreement on training,” Zebari said. “How many trainers will remain in Iraq is not that important,” he said. “It’s the commitment that is very important.”
The Obama administration is considering 3,000 to 5,000 troops for an Iraqi training mission, but would it be implemented alongside an expanded diplomatic mission in Iraq, as well as a significant amount of military contractors.
At a minimum, the diplomatic and contractor presence would number over 17,000 and according to the most recent Quarterly Report of the Special Inspector General for Iraq, the Department of State “will assume primary responsibility for a planned $6.8 billion operation” carried out “from 11 locations around Iraq, including three consulates and the world’s largest embassy.”
The final decision is likely to be made by US and Iraqi officials, without the approval or consultation of the Iraqi Parliament, with some calling the Maliki government dictatorial. Shiite leaders in Iraq have vehemently rejected a US presence past December and the cleric Moqtadr al Sadr has promised to treat remaining troops as “invaders.”