Panetta: Military to Negotiate New Iraq Role After Pullout

Suggests US May Keep Troops As Part of 'Security Cooperation' Deal

by Jason Ditz, October 21, 2011

Fresh off of President Obama’s announcement that the US is going to withdraw all of its troops from Iraq, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta is talking about planned negotiations with the Iraqi government on a new role for troops inside the country.

According to Panetta, once the “reduction of the combat presence” is completed (an interesting choice of words since officials term the troops “non-combat” forces) they will enter into a new round of talks with the Iraqi government on keeping troops for military trainers and “security needs” going forward.

The trainers were presumed to be off the table with the collapse of the current talks, with the Iraqi government refusing to grant US troops blanket immunity for crimes committed in the nation. The Iraqi government insists that since the mission was supposed to be training on base, they wouldn’t need immunity.

Panetta declined to estimate how many troops the Pentagon might end up returning to Iraq in the talks, but pointed to Bahrain’s “security cooperation” deal as an example, where the US has nearly 5,000 troops.

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