Some US lawmakers want to keep 10,000
troops in Iraq
September 8, 2011
WASHINGTON, — Defense hawks in the U.S.
Congress said on Wednesday the United States should
leave at least 10,000 troops in Iraq beyond a
year-end withdrawal deadline, but one senior
lawmaker countered that it was wrong for the United
States to press to stay.
The Obama administration said it had yet to decide,
and noted that in any case there was no agreement
with Baghdad that any of the 46,000 American troops
currently in Iraq should remain next year.
The lawmakers were discussing media reports that
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta supported a plan to
keep 3,000 to 4,000 U.S. troops in Iraq past the end
of the year pullout deadline agreed in a bilateral
Senator Lindsey Graham.
"I was not overjoyed when I heard 3,000. I have
heard from (U.S.) commanders in the field that they
think we shouldn't go below 10 (thousand)," said
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard
Republican who has been warning of the perils of
cutting back U.S. defense spending in general.
"I think 10,000, when you add it up, is probably the
bare minimum to do this," said Senator Lindsey
Graham, a Republican and officer in the Air Force
reserves who has frequently visited U.S. forces in
Iraq and Afghanistan.
Iran was trying to destabilize Iraq's fragile
democracy, Graham warned, speaking on the Senate
floor along with fellow defense hawks John McCain
and Joe Lieberman.
They said U.S. forces were needed to help the Iraqis
with intelligence, training, counterterrorism,
peacekeeping in areas disputed by Arabs and Kurds,
and protecting U.S. civilians that will stay in
But Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin told
reporters that he was not concerned that 3,000 U.S.
troops in Iraq would be too few. In any case, Levin,
a moderate Democrat, said: "I don't think it's
appropriate for us to be pressing the Iraqis to be
asking us for troops."
"We ought to consider a request ... But for us to be
sending a message that 'you need us,' is the wrong
message, I believe," Levin said outside the Senate.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said he wouldn't
comment on "internal administration deliberations
surrounding what we're discussing with the Iraqi
"It's important to remember that the Iraqis have a
say in this too," Little said.
President Obama has overseen a drawdown of U.S.
troops in Iraq to 46,000 from around 140,000 when he
took office in January 2009. He had pledged to have
all out by the end of 2011 but U.S. officials have
not ruled out a training mission.
U.S. officials have been pressing Iraq to decide
soon whether they want to keep any U.S. troops in
But Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has a
fragile power-sharing agreement with Sunni, Shi'ite
and Kurd parties who don't agree on a continued U.S.
Kurdish officials are widely known to want U.S.
forces to stay, as do some in Iraq's Sunni minority.
But anti-U.S. Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a
member of the coalition government, has threatened
to step up protests and military resistance if U.S.
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