Officials said the U.S. proposal was relayed directly to Prime Minister
Nouri Al Maliki as part of intensified negotiations between Baghdad and
Washington. They said Al Maliki has directed the talks over the U.S.
military presence while excluding the military as well as the parliamentary
Over the last three months, Washington has significantly reduced its
proposed military presence in Iraq after 2011. Officials said the initial
U.S. proposal called for up to 20,000 American troops and trainers.
But Al Maliki was said to have rejected the proposals, and the United
States decided to recommend a skeleton military force that would be
bolstered by troops in neighboring Kuwait. The U.S. military presence in
Iraq now numbers about 45,000, with plans to begin a major withdrawal over
the next month.
A leading Iraqi parliamentarian asserted that Al Maliki was under
pressure to reject any U.S. combat presence. Qassem Araji, a member of
parliament's Security Committee, said Al Maliki was also opposed to U.S.
forces around Kirkuk, an area disputed by Arabs and Kurds.
"The problem is the Kurdish desire for a U.S. presence in the disputed
areas, and this has been opposed by Arabs and Turkmens," Araji said.
Officials said Al Maliki has agreed to a presence of 500 U.S.
instructors to train the Iraqi military. But the prime minister opposed the
U.S. demand that American military personnel be granted immunity from Iraqi
"Right now, immunity remains the problem," Araji said.