A senior administration official traveling with Vice President Joe Biden told reporters on Wednesday that “There is no discussion, no contemplation, no thought of returning U.S. troops to Iraq.”
The claim comes after contradictory statements from Obama administration officials on whether U.S. forces would return to Iraq after the “full withdrawal” at the end of the month. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, for example, told lawmakers on Nov. 15 that some troops may return.
“Our hope would be that this isn’t just a State Department presence, but that ultimately we’ll be able to negotiate a further presence for the military as well,” Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
And Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki told reporters in Baghdad Wednesday “No doubt, the U.S. forces have a role in providing training of Iraqi forces.”
The true intentions of the administration are still unclear, as negotiations for a large NATO force remaining in Iraq broke down on the same basis of immunity that the the U.S. troop presence negotiations fell through.
A bid in the Senate to officially declare the Iraq war over and revoke the 2002 authorization for military force there failed by a 30-67 vote, again leaving open the possibility for a future U.S. military presence there.