Last week, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said Iraq’s various political blocs will make a decision within two weeks on whether to ask the United States for a continued military presence beyond 2011.
But Reuters reports today that according to Iraqi security officials, Iraq is “unlikely” to ask the U.S. for an extended military presence. Instead, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is seeking military “trainers,” instead of troops, which will allow him to bypass parliamentary approval for a continued U.S. stay:
In a recent interview with state-owned Iraqiya television, Maliki appeared to signal he favored the trainer strategy when he said it would be difficult to secure a majority in parliament for a troop extension, but that a training contingent would not need lawmakers’ approval.
“We have received and bought American weapons, tanks, planes, and will buy fighter jets, and we have warships. It is necessary that we have trainers (for the equipment),” he said.
“That’s why we have decided in the National Security Council that we need a keep a number of American trainers.”
“If the political blocs refused to announce their final decision on the U.S. withdrawal…Maliki would go it alone and sign memorandums of understanding with the American side,” said a senior lawmaker in Maliki’s State of Law party.
According to Reuters, sources said the trainers would not be active duty military “but rather contractors with military or security backgrounds. They would not conduct combat operations.” While it appears then that the Iraqis are eyeing private security contractors, the State Department is already expected to spend nearly $3 billion on “a 5,100-strong force to protect diplomatic personnel, guard embassy buildings and operate a fleet of aircraft and armored vehicles.”