A top, albeit anonymous, US military official insisted that it was vital for the Obama Administration to keep some troops in Iraq past the December deadline. The current Status of Forces Agreement requires all troops to be out by year’s end.
The official insisted that continuing the over eight year long presence was the “best for Iraq,” and that Iraq’s military is unable to “ward off threats” from its neighbors. A number of other officials, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates, have openly advocated keeping troops in Iraq for years.
The threats Iraq has to worry about are ill-defined, but officials made reference to “regional instability.” Iraq is on good terms with its largest neighbors, Iran and Turkey, and seemingly its biggest threat is domestic protests.
Those threats might actually be far greater if the US remains, as Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is warning his followers will go into open revolt if the US attempts to stay past December. As Sadr’s supporters have a significant portion of parliament as well, the administration faces an uphill battle in convincing the Iraqi government of its need to remain.