Panetta: US Will Keep Large Numbers of Troops Around Iraq

Says Iraq Can Deal with 'Iran-Backed' Militias Itself

In comments that were half pep-talk about the chances of Iraqi forces and half attempt to combat criticism among US politicians of the idea of ending the Iraq occupation, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta insisted Iraq would be just fine.

Iraq itself has developed an effective fighting force,” Panetta said, insisting they were more than capable of fighting the “Iran-backed militias” in the country on their own.

Lost in Panetta’s comments, of course, is the reality that the Shi’ite militias, which the US has constantly maintained were Iran-backed, were fighting the US occupation forces. In their absence those groups don’t even anticipate existing, let alone fighting a largely pro-Iran Maliki government.

Panetta was quick to insist the US is going to continue to keep massive numbers of combat troops in the region, including tens of thousands in tiny Kuwait. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton likewise made this something to do with Iran, saying they oughtn’t mistake the withdrawal from Iraq as an end to the US presence in the region.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of