WASHINGTON - Defense hawks in the US Congress said on Wednesday the United States should leave at least 10,000 troops in Iraq beyond a year-end withdrawal deadline, but one senior lawmaker countered that it was wrong for the United States to press to stay.
The Obama administration said it had yet to decide, and noted that in any case there was no agreement with Baghdad that any of the 46,000 American troops currently in Iraq should remain next year.
The lawmakers were discussing media reports that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta supported a plan to keep 3,000 to 4,000 US troops in Iraq past the end of the year pullout deadline agreed in a bilateral security pact.
"I was not overjoyed when I heard 3,000. I have heard from (US) commanders in the field that they think we shouldn't go below 10 (thousand)," said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon, a Republican who has been warning of the perils of cutting back US defense spending in general.