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WASHINGTON D.C.-Despite the urging from the Pentagon, President Obama is considering lowering troop levels to only 3,000 troops in Iraq after the troop withdrawal date agreed upon by the Bush administration and the Iraqi government. The deadline for withdrawing all troops is the end of December. Pentagon officials have pushed for a minimum level of 10,000 troops.
The idea of keeping any troops in Iraq after the agreement expires is controversial in the U.S. as well as Iraq. Some Lawmakers here as well as hard-liners Iraq are pushing for complete withdrawal as the deadline approaches.
Obama, during his campaign for the presidency in 2008, promised to abide by the agreement made by Bush and withdraw all troops from that country by the deadline.
But, last month, Nouri Maliki formally requested talks to continue a U.S. relationship with his country. A spokesman for Maliki stated that there would be an agreement soon as to the number of troops allowed to remain in that country for training purposes. That agreement must be voted on by the Iraqi parliament however, and heavy opposition is expected by blocs tied to the Shitte cleric Muqtada Sadr’s movement. Senior officials are urging Maliki to make a decision as to whether troops are to stay or go.
Senators John McCain, Republican from Arizona, Joe Lieberman an Independent from Connecticut, and Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, who have been long-time supporters of the war in Iraq, have stated that they are deeply troubled by Obama’s proposal. They said in a statement, “This is dramatically lower than what our military leaders have consistently told us over the course of repeated visits to Iraq that they require, and that is needed to support Iraq in safeguarding the hard-won gains that our two nations have achieved at such great cost.”
Obama says that Washington can best maintain influence in Iraq by arms sales and diplomatic engagement rather than having a larger troop force as the Pentagon is urging. A senior U.S. Military official, speaking anonymously, said, “Whatever mission is given to us, we want to make sure that we have enough for force protection; that’s the concern.”
As of last month, there were 46,000 troops deployed to Iraq.