According to a statement today by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, the government has formally requested that the US keep 5,000 military trainers inside Iraq after the December 31 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) deadline.
The statement insisted that the 5,000 trainers would be allowed to stay but would be given no immunity. Pentagon chief Leon Panetta says that any deal would require blanket immunity for US troops.
The dispute over immunity gained momentum yesterday when Ali al-Dabbagh suggested Iraq might try to find private contractors to take the role of trainers if the US refused. The Iraqi Interior Ministry seemed to support the idea, saying deals with contractors were entirely separate from the expiration of the SOFA deal.
Iraqi officials have said that since the trainers would be operating purely on bases and in a training capacity, no immunity was warranted. The US opposition comes amid speculation that officials want to redefine the troops as “trainers” while they continue to operate as usual.