A year-end deadline for the pullout of U.S. troops in Iraq is drawing near, but Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, says an agreement with the U.S. to conduct military training of Iraqi soldiers is currently under negotiation in Baghdad. Zebari told the Associated Press, “We’re looking for October for these talks to move forward.” Officials say the White House is considering keeping 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq for a training mission but an Iraqi lawmaker said the number might be closer to 2,500. “How many trainers will remain in Iraq is not that important,” said Zebari. “It’s the commitment that is very important.” However, allies of anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Parliament said they would oppose that agreement. “We reject even the staying of trainers,” Sadrist lawmaker Mushraq Naji said last week. “Our stance is clear and that all U.S. troops should leave. Negotiations to keep them here run against the will of the Iraqi people.”
The U.S. military said that those training Iraqi forces on using military equipment purchased from America will be contractors, not troops.