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U.S. Forces Not Leaving Iraq *

AP reports today: "On his flight to Indonesia on Friday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters that negotiations with Iraq on future training possibilities will begin later.

"If such talks are held, they likely would start either when Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visits Washington in December or after the end of the year, according to a senior U.S. defense official familiar with the discussions.

"The officer spoke Sunday on condition that he not be identified because the issue of possible future U.S. training is highly sensitive."

    Jarrar is an Iraqi-American blogger and political analyst based in Washington, D.C. He said today: "The Iraq war is not over yet. Shortly after President Obama's announcement that the U.S. is going to withdraw all of its troops from Iraq, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta started talking about planned negotiations with the Iraqi government on a new role for troops inside the country. Most of Iraq's politicians believe the Pentagon is trying one last attempt to keep trainers by sending them under the NATO umbrella. The Iraqi government signed a training agreement with NATO in 2009, but did not send it to the parliament for ratification until earlier this month, a day after the immunity talks with the U.S. collapsed. The agreement, which grants NATO trainers some level of immunity, will be debated in the Iraqi parliament after the recess that ends on November 20th. It is not likely the Parliament will pass the agreement.

    "But even if the Pentagon's attempt fails, the U.S. is planning to leave up to 16,000 State Department personnel in Iraq after the end of this year. This number includes 8,000 armed mercenaries and  4,500 so-called 'general life support' contractors who provide food and medical services, operate the aviation equipment, etc. This huge presence will be distributed over several sites around the country: The massive U.S. Embassy in the Green Zone, two consulates in Basra and Erbil, two support sites in Iraqi airports, three police-training facilities, and one diplomatic presence office in Kirkuk. A report by the Office of Inspector General in 2009 recommended downsizing the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. The OIG report, number ISP-I-09-30A, described the U.S. embassy in Baghdad as 'overstaffed,' and confirmed it should be able to carry out all of its responsibilities with 'significantly fewer staff and in a much reduced footprint.' The report claimed that there is a 'clear consensus from the top to the bottom of the Embassy' that the time has come for a 'significant rightsizing,' and it recommended that 'the rightsizing process has to begin immediately.'

    "The plan to leave 16,000 personnel in Iraq, the size of an Army division, contradicts the OIG's recommendations and puts the future of the U.S.-Iraqi relationship in jeopardy. The U.S. intervention in Iraq started more than 20 years ago, and it will not be over from an Iraqi perspective until the U.S. downsizes its massive footprint in Iraq."

Background: "Occupying Iraq, State Department-Style",_how_not_to_withdraw_from_iraq



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