Last Updated: Fri Aug 19, 2011 22:00 pm (KSA) 19:00 pm (GMT)

Iraqi gov’t aide rebuffs US Defense claims on troops staying in Iraq after 2011

US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (L) and Commanding General of US Forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin fly in a Blackhawk helicopter over Baghdad. (File Photo)
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (L) and Commanding General of US Forces in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin fly in a Blackhawk helicopter over Baghdad. (File Photo)

Minutes after the US Defense Secretary announced that Iraq had agreed to keep American troops in the country beyond a year-end deadline for their withdrawal, an aide to the Iraqi premier denied the claims.

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had said Friday that Baghdad had given the okay to an American military training mission after 2011.

"My view is that they finally did say, ‘Yes,'" Mr. Panetta said in an interview with Stars and Stripes and the Military Times, AFP reported.

But the Iraqi government was quick to rebuff Mr. Panetta’s claims.

"We have not yet agreed on the issue of keeping training forces," Ali Mussawi, media advisor to Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki, told AFP.

"The negotiations are ongoing, and these negotiations have not been finalized."

Under the terms of a 2008 security agreement, all of the 46,000 US troops still in Iraq must pull out by the end of 2011.

But Iraqi political leaders announced on August 3 that they would open talks with the United States over a possible training mission after 2011, although they are yet to say whether some American troops would remain.

Both US and Iraqi military officers have recognized a need for Iraq's forces to be assisted in defending the the country's air space, ports and borders.

The 2008 security agreement will still be adhered to, Mr. Panetta said, despite cloudy negotiations over a further American training mission.

"We will fulfill the commitment that we are going to take all of the combat forces out of Iraq [by the end of 2011]," Mr. Panetta said.

Comments »

Post Your Comment »