The United States may extend troop presence in Iraq, according to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who paid a visit to troops in Camp Marez in Mosul, Iraq.
According to a feature on the Navy Times, Gates met with Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. After their meeting, the Secretary of Defense gave the following comment to reporters: “I have the impression that there is interest [in extending U.S. military presence], so I’m hopeful that Iraqi leaders will consult and let us know one way or the other… I urge the Iraqi government to show restraint and live up to their commitments to treat Ashraf residents in accordance with Iraqi law and international obligations.”
At Camp Marez, Sec. Gates spoke to soldiers from the 4th Advise and Assist Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, based out of Fort Hood, Texas, where he shared the seeming interest indicated by Iraqi officials in extending U.S. military presence in the country. He told the troops that the U.S. was “open to that” possibility, although it will undoubtedly be a fraction of the current troop size, which is about 47,000.
Secretary Gates also met with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed al Nahyan, deputy chief of the armed forces of the United Arab Emirates, in Abu Dhabi.
U.S. military presence in Iraq is expected to end in 2011, based on the deal negotiated by the Bush administration in 2008. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other Iraqi officials have been saying that U.S. troops will no longer be needed beyond end of this year, but Secretary Gates’ recent visit seems to indicate otherwise.