According to the present agreement the U.S. must withdraw all troops from Iraq by the end of December this year. The U.S. has been putting pressure on Iraq to ask that thousands of troops stay in Iraq beyond that date. However the Maliki government fears defeat if he asks for this in parliament. But there seems to be a solution to this impasse.
Instead of keeping troops in Iraq the U.S. will keep trainers to help Iraqis learn how to operate all the new equipment that is going to Iraq from the U.S. military industrial complex. Trainers are not troops and therefore need not be approved by parliament.
Iraq's foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari said:"We're looking for October for these talks to move forward..."I think we will get an agreement on training,. "How many trainers will remain in Iraq is not that important," "It's the commitment that is very important."
The Obama administration is hoping to keep 3,000 to 5,000 troops as trainers. However, there would also be an expanded diplomatic mission and many private military contractors as well. THe U.S. will obviously maintain a significant presence in Iraq.
The minimum diplomatic and contractor presence would be 17,000 according to the most recent Quarterly Report of the Special Inspector General for Iraq, the Department of State "will assume primary responsibility for a planned $6.8 billion operation" carried out "from 11 locations around Iraq, including three consulates and the world's largest embassy." At a time when the U.S. is facing a huge deficit and the need for deep budget cuts the Obama administration is nevertheless keeping a huge presence in Iraq.
The decision on the exact number of trainers to stay in Iraq will no doubt be made only with senior officials from Iraq and the U.S. The Iraqi parliament will have no say. The important al-Sadr faction which is part of Maliki's coalition government may not accept this dodge. al-Sadr said:"We reject even the staying of trainers,""Our stance is clear and that all U.S. troops should leave. Negotiations to keep them here run against the will of the Iraqi people." Maliki's problems may not be over.
I note that the the photo of al Sadr in the report image says that the Pentagon identifies him as the biggest threat to stability in Iraq. Perhaps that honor belongs just as much to the Pentagon itself.