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Friday, August 26, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Extent of U.S. presence in Iraq beyond 2011 increasingly a point of contention

BAGHDAD — Iraq and the United States continue to disagree over the size and weaponry for a continued American military presence.


Officials said Iraq and the United States, despite intensive negotiations, have encountered serious differences regarding a proposal to extend the American military presence beyond 2011. They said the two countries disagree over the size, deployment and authority of a U.S. military force in Iraq.

"Both sides agree that Iraq needs continued American military trainers, but there is not much else that they agree upon," an official said.

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Officials said the negotiations between the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and Washington intensified over the last two weeks. They said the administration of President Barack Obama has requested a military presence of between 10,000 and 20,000 troops dependent on the security situation in Iraq, and supported by helicopters, main battle tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Al Maliki has agreed to no more than 8,000 troops, nearly all of them trainers and support staff. Baghdad envisions a modest American presence that would be protected largely by the Iraqi military.

Officials said Washington has sought to deploy any American military presence in six bases throughout Iraq. But they said Al Maliki's negotiators have agreed to only three U.S. bases as well as tight restrictions on movement and activities.

"Iraq wants an agreement to train its troops and contract with instructors for newly-purchased weapons from the United States," Saad Al Mutlabi, an Al Maliki aide, said. "But the Americans believe that the instructors need military forces for protection."

Some allies of Al Maliki, particularly Muqtada Al Sadr, have called for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces. Officials said the prime minister did not want a confrontation with his Shi'ite allies over an extended U.S. military presence.

"Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki is well aware of the mood of the Iraqi street and will not move more than he is permitted," Al Mutlabi said.

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