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WASHINGTON – Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has decided not to ask the U.S. to keep its troops there beyond their planned departure date at the end of the year and will not permit any permanent U.S. bases in the country, informed regional sources have told Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
The United States has been pressuring al-Maliki to allow for the extension beyond the end of the year when U.S. forces are supposed to depart the country under a 2008 Status of Forces Agreement between Baghdad and Washington.
Ironically, it was sources in Iran who first quoted al-Maliki saying that he has decided not to extend U.S. forces.
“The agreement on the withdrawal of American forces will be implemented on schedule by the end of the year and there will not be any bases for U.S. forces here,” Maliki reportedly told Baghdad’s Al-Ittijah TV in an interview.
Separately, some arrangement apparently has been worked out between U.S. officials and Iraqi leaders to retain some U.S. trainers, according to sources, although that number remains unknown and nothing yet has been officially announced.
There currently are some 47,000 American soldiers in Iraq.
In July, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta visited al-Maliki right after being sworn in to plead the case for extending U.S. troops beyond the end of the year.
Sources say that al-Maliki also had sought to purchase some 36 U.S. F-16 jet fighters, but the administration was concerned that neighboring Iran would have access to them once U.S. forces departed. It remains unclear that with the departure of U.S. forces whether Washington still will approve the sale.
The secretary underscored the need for U.S. troops to remain because of the growing influence of Iran especially in southern Iraq.
In his July meeting with al-Maliki, the defense secretary argued that the need for the extension of the troops was to continue training of Afghan forces and to assist in halting the supply of weapons from neighboring Iran.
He said that those weapons were killing U.S. troops and also urged al-Maliki to crack down on the insurgents who were attacking coalition forces.
U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen has confirmed that Iran is conducting an insurgency campaign in southern Iraq that is resulting in the killing of U.S. troops.
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