Bush-al-Maliki deal sets framework for long-term US presence in Iraq

President George W. Bush on Monday signed a deal setting the foundation for a potential long-term US troop presence in Iraq, with details to be negotiated over matters that have defined the war debate at home - how many US forces will stay in the country, and for how long. The agreement between Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki confirms that the United States and Iraq will hash out an "enduring" relationship in military, economic and political terms. Details of that relationship will be negotiated in 2008, with a completion goal of July, when the US intends to finish withdrawing the five combat brigades sent in 2007 as part of the troop buildup that has helped curb sectarian violence. "What US troops are doing, how many troops are required to do that, are bases required, which partners will join them - all these things are on the negotiating table," said Lt.-Gen. Douglas Lute, Bush's adviser on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.