The BBC is reporting that Iraqi prime minister Nouri al Maliki has hinted at the possibility of extending the presence of U.S. troops after the December 31, 2011 withdrawal target. The network and other news media may be reading too much into Maliki’s statement during a U.S. Institute for Peace address that, after the deadline, “if the Iraqi forces required further training and further support, we shall examine this then at that time.”
Still, there’s this:
Mr Maliki faces a general election in Iraq in January in which he is staking his reputation on being the man who oversaw the transfer of military control from US to Iraqi hands.
But the BBC’s Gabriel Gatehouse in Baghdad says that, behind the optimistic talk about withdrawal, reduced violence and the increased capabilities of Iraqi security forces, lie two facts – there are still around 130,000 American troops inside Iraq, and fatal attacks remain an everyday occurrence.
The question remains how to extract American forces from Iraq by the end of 2011 without the security situation getting any worse, our correspondent says.