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The Obama administration denied a news report on Saturday that a final decision was made to pull almost all U.S. troops out of Iraq by a year-end withdrawal deadline.
The White House and Pentagon both denied an AP report citing an unnamed U.S. officials saying both agencies completely deny keeping a significant contingent as trainers for Iraqi security forces beyond 2011.
Both countries’ officials are negotiating for several thousand U.S. troops to stay. The deal breaker is Iraq’s refusal to grant U.S. military personnel legal immunity, as Washington demands. This point is is a sensitive issue to Iraqis, many of whom witnessed abuse by U.S. troops and contractors through the previous eight years after deposing Saddam Hussein.
After ending combat operations in 2010, the last 44,000 U.S. troops are scheduled to leave the area by the end of the year under the terms of a bilateral security pact.
The Obama administration denies this report and insisted no decision is reached between American and Iraqi government regarding any training relationship and how many troops might stay beyond the December 31 deadline. The AP report said only about 160 soldiers attached to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad would stay.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said, President Obama has repeatedly made it clear that we are committed to keeping our agreement with the Iraqi government to remove all of our troops by the end of this year. At the same time we’re building a comprehensive partnership with Iraq under the Strategic Framework Agreement, including a robust security relationship, and discussions with the Iraqis about the nature of that relationship are ongoing.
The Defense Department statement was almost identical. DoD spokesman George Little said, Suggestions that a final decision has been reached about our training relationship with the Iraqi government are wrong.