Friday, November 25, 2011

Hundreds of United States Troops, Thousands of Contractors to Remain in Iraq

US keeps hundreds of 'trainers' in Iraq

Thu Nov 24, 2011 2:35PM GMT

The United States plans to retain more than 700 American forces in Iraq after the US withdrawal from the country by the end of December 2011.

According to Iraqi officials, Baghdad had reached an agreement with Washington to allow 740 so-called US trainers stay in the country after the December withdrawal deadline, Lebanon's Daily Star newspaper reported on its website on Wednesday.

The news comes despite weeks of gestures by Iraqi officials who vowed no agreement could ever be reached to keep US troops in the country.

The agreement comes after President Barack Obama announced in October that the US military presence in Iraq would end at the timetable agreed by Baghdad and his predecessor Gorge W. Bush's administration.

"There are no talks any more about this issue and the final total number of US trainers is 740," said a senior Iraqi security official referring to months of informal talks between Iraq and US officials on the issue.

"Most of them are civilian weapons contractors, and just a few are military officers."

Talks between Baghdad and Washington ran aground over legal immunity for US troops if they stayed on as trainers, which many Iraqi officials opposed as politically implausible.

A US military official had earlier said about 700 civilian trainers were to remain, together with 157 military personnel and a force of up to 25 marine guards at the massive US embassy in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad.

The US State Department will also have a massive “private army” of thousands of military contractors.

The US trainers will be stationed in Baghdad, Tikrit, Kirkuk, Basra, Nassiriya, Besmaya, Taji and Arbil, according to Iraqi officials.

The US troops do not enjoy immunity, but they will be considered as part of the US embassy delegation in Iraq, they noted.

The US and its allies invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext of seizing the weapons of mass destruction allegedly wielded by executed dictator Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist regime, weapons which have yet to be discovered.

No comments: