Iraqi leaders agreed on the need to train Iraqi forces regarding whether to extend the stay of U.S. troops in the country, however stated there was “no need” for U.S. forces that stay beyond year-end to receive immunity from prosecution, a key condition set by Washington. Only supporters of radical anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr rejected the accord.
The remarks raise questions over whether an oft-discussed American military training mission will be agreed for beyond the end-2011 withdrawal deadline set by a bilateral security pact, and how it will be structured if any deal is put in place, Agence France-Presse reported.
After a two-hour meeting hosted by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, the leaders of the country’s main political blocs said that they “agreed on the need to train Iraqi forces” and quickly purchase military equipment, according to a statement issued by government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh.
But, “the leaders agreed there is no need to give immunity for trainers.” It added: “Training should be held on Iraqi bases, and it should be organized to ensure that Iraqi forces will be professional.” “These forces should … be able to deter any threat against Iraq’s internal and external security and maintain the integrity of its territory, water and skies, and its constitutional democracy.”
U.S. and Iraqi officials assess that while domestic security forces are largely capable of maintaining internal security, they cannot yet defend the country’s borders, its maritime waters, or its airspace. The decision by Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish blocs allows Iraqi Prime Nuri al-Maliki to continue discussing keeping some U.S. soldiers in Iraq after the 2011 deadline for their withdrawal, more than eight years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Reuters reported. U.S. officials say they want troops to have similar legal protections to those they have under the current security agreement, which expires this year.
Iraqi political leaders agreed in early August to open talks with Washington over the training mission, but little visible progress has been made since.
That announcement to hold negotiations came shortly after Admiral Michael Mullen, then chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, told reporters in Baghdad that any deal would require parliamentary approval stating that U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq would enjoy immunity from prosecution.
Approximately 43,500 U.S. troops remain stationed in Iraq, and all of them must withdraw by the end of the year under a bilateral security pact, which remains in force if no post-2011 deal is agree.
The United States on Tuesday meanwhile put the alleged leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq on its special anti-terror blacklist and placed a $10 million bounty on his head, Agence France-Presse reported. Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri, also known as Abu Du’a, was added to a U.S. list of “specially designated global terrorists” for his role as a top leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the State Department said.