Top American officials, like outgoing Defense Secretary Robert Gates and his replacement Leon Panetta, in recent months have been saying publicly — often times in Iraq — that the U.S. military will stay in Iraq past the Dec. 31, 2011 withdrawal deadline if the Iraqis ask. At the same time, American casualties have sharply increased. This month marked the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Iraq since May 2009. Over at Foreign Policy Passport, Robert Zeigler reports that, according to a former Iraqi U.N. diplomat, “U.S. soldiers are likely being targeted more now because there is talk that Iraqi and American officials will try to keep additional troops” past 2011. “That’s the primary driver,” said Michael Knights, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The Iranians and Sadrists are taking it very seriously.”
Are Attacks On U.S. Troops Up In Iraq Because Gates, Panetta Say U.S. Will Stay?