For the past few months, various Obama administration officials have said publicly that the United States would be willing to keep an unspecified number of U.S. troops in Iraq after the Dec. 31, 2011 withdrawal date if the Iraqis asked. Just last weekend, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq again extended the offer, one that some analysts credit with increased attacks on American soldiers there.
However, the White House has been silent. The AP reports today however that “senior Obama administration and U.S. military officials” say the “the White House is offering to keep up to 10,000 troops in Iraq next year”:
Already, though, the White House has worked out options to keep between 8,500 and 10,000 active-duty troops to continue training Iraqi security forces during 2012, according to senior Obama administration and U.S. military officials in interviews with The Associated Press. The figures also were noted by foreign diplomats in Baghdad briefed on the issue.
The AP added that “White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor said there currently are ‘no plans’ to keep U.S. troops in Iraq” past 2011. But Vietor added that an Iraqi request “would be given serious consideration.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) scoffed at the idea of keeping more troops in Iraq past the withdrawal deadline.
“As Iraq becomes increasingly capable, it is time for our own troops to return home by the end of the year and for these precious resources to be directed elsewhere,” Reid, Democrat of Nevada, said in the statement. “There is no question that the United States must continue to provide support for the Iraqis as they progress, but now is the time for our military mission to come to a close.”
Last June marked the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Iraq since 2008, and the rate of U.S. troops in killed there is at 2003 and 2004 levels.
Ashwin Madia at Vet Voice praised Reid’s statement and added:
What has become abundantly clear is that as long as Americans are in Iraq, they will be a target. Should we stay in Iraq past our deadline, there is no reason to believe that violent attacks won’t further increase, leading to more American deaths. The United States will then be forced to either endure the attacks or send in more troops to protect our forces. There is simply no outcome from staying past the SOFA deadline that is acceptable or desirable.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said this afternoon that “if the iraqi government asks us to maintain some level of troops beyond that year deadline, we would consider it. That doesn’t necessarily mean we would do it. We would just consider it.”