Last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he would seek American “trainers,” instead of troops, to stay in Iraq past 2011 — a move that would allow him to keep U.S. forces in Iraq without getting approval from parliament, which as of yet has not come to an agreement and is bitterly divided over the issue. The trainers reportedly would not be active duty military “but rather contractors with military or security backgrounds.”
Yesterday Iraq’s Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said Iraq needs U.S. help to train its military and that the Iraqis “are heading to an agreement on having trainers.” However, Zebari stressed that the trainers would be active-duty military, not private contractors. Adding to the confusion, Maliki said yesterday that parliament would make the final decision, the AP reports:
The prime minister “stressed that the Iraqi parliament is the body that decides eventually whether the country needs the U.S. forces to stay or not,” the statement said. Al-Maliki also told Biden that “the leaders of the political blocs might be able to reach a decision on this during their next meeting.”
But some in Maliki’s own party — perhaps influenced by those loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr — are saying publicly that U.S. forces need to leave. And McClatchy reports that the feeling is mutual among other local politicians:
[S]ome politicians would prefer to see the backs of the U.S. forces. Athiel al Nujaifi, the governor of Ninewah province, which includes Mosul, believes that U.S. troops are no longer needed in the city or the province. […]
“I am confident that we are able to keep the peace without any assistance from the American forces,” Nujaifi said in a phone interview. “It is we who demanded that they withdraw from Mosul, and not more than a month later, security became noticeably better. And we are confident that the same will happen all over the province as soon as they withdraw from all of Ninewah.”
Iraqi Security and American military officials in Mosul said U.S. forces should stay. “It’s not the right time, and it’s a big mistake for the U.S. to pull out so fast,” an unnamed senior Iraqi security official said.
Iraq’s political leaders are tentatively scheduled to meet again this Saturday to discuss the issue.