Reports today suggest that the Iraqi government is set on not requesting the Obama Administration to keep “troops” on the ground beyond the end of the Status of Forces Agreement in December, instead asking for thousands of “trainers.”
The move appears to solidify comments by Vice President Hashimi over the weekend, when he insisted that the extention was not in the interest of the Iraqi government. It would also calm public outcry over the possibility of continuing the occupation.
But in some ways, it may be a distinction without a difference. Thousands of US contractors or military trainers will still be a significant foothold in the country, and with the State Department’s “private army” still in the plans, the US will retain the sort of onerous presence which will not only ensure continued controversy, but will provide all sorts of opportunities to re-escalate the conflict.
A statement from Iraq’s Foreign Ministry suggested that the US ambassador is ok with this situation as well, saying the “withdrawal” would be carried out as planned. Since US officials have made no bones about wanting to keep a presence in the nation for years after 2011, this appears to be a satisfactory compromise for them.