Iraq: 20,000 US Troops Likely To Stay As “Technical Experts”

Iraq’s Prime Minister al-Maliki was elected on the premise that all American occupying troops will be out of the country by the end of December 2011. However, it appears now that Washington’s man in Baghdad is pushing, in conjunction with the Obama administration, to keep some US troops in Iraq after the deadline.

Last week, at a press conference, al-Maliki stated that “We won’t get unanimous agreement on this issue, but if we get 70 or 80 percent, isn’t that the will of the people?” Al-Maliki, and officials within the US military, are trying to change the narrative. In this new narrative, US troops will not be combat troops anymore, or even military advisers, instead they will be called, by both Baghdad and Washington, “technical experts”. But, for a majority of Iraqis, despite the name change, the 20,000 US troops will remain, de facto, the occupiers.

A big problem for al-Maliki is that, in order to get elected Prime Minister in the first place, he made a deal with people such as cleric al-Sadr. The key element of the alliance between al-Maliki and al-Sadr was that all American troops would leave after the December deadline. Al-Sadr has no intention to let al-Maliki break his commitment on the issue. Last week, tens of thousands of al-Sadr supporters took to the streets of Baghdad, demanding that every American soldiers be gone by the end of the year.

In a recent interview with the BBC, al-Sadr threatened to reactivate his militia, the Mahdi army, if US troops stay. Most analyst in Iraq say a new agreement between Iraq and the US to authorize around 20,000 American troops beyond December is likely. There are currently 50,000 US troops now in Iraq, not counting the many contractors/mercenaries working for the US State Department to guard the Green Zone. If US troops stay in Iraq indefinitely, the next time the Mahdi army marches in Baghdad they are likely to be carrying guns. Attacks against American interests have already increased in recent weeks.



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