The US will probably keep thousands of soldiers in Iraq beyond the
official departure date of end 2011, despite US President Barack Obama's
official announcement last week marking the end of the US combat
mission, AFP reported Sunday.
American officials, speaking off the record, said that extension will
likely happen as a result of the need to aid Iraq's military amid
sectarian tensions.RELATED:Iraq on highest alert for terror attacksAnalysis: Stuck in the Middle (East) with youJust
under 50,000 US troops remain in Iraq — down from a peak of nearly
170,000 at the height of the military surge in 2007. Those troops will
be focused on training and assisting the Iraqi military, and will no
longer be allowed to go on combat missions unless requested and
accompanied by Iraqi forces.The
fear of political divisions, aggravated by the struggle for control of
Iraq's oil potential, is ever present. Some Iraqis worry that without
the American soldiers, their country will revert to a dictatorship or
split along religious and ethnic fault lines.
officials say the reduction in troop numbers doesn't hinge on Iraq
forming a new government, but on the ability of Iraqi forces to handle
security on their own.
dwindling US military presence has deepened concerns that Iraq will be
taken over by its neighbors — namely Iran — who many think is waiting to
fill the power vacuum created by the departing Americans.
According to the report, approximately 10,000 troops could remain in
Iraq beyond the end of next year. These would not necessarily all be
soldiers in uniform, but could also be security officials and special
The US may also need to provide equipment the Iraqi military is severely lacking such as helicopters and fighter jets.
AP contributed to this report
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