Iraq to discuss U.S. troop levels
BAGHDAD – Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Wednesday that he would engage in a months-long consultation with Iraq’s many political factions before deciding whether to ask the United States to keep some troops in the country.
Al-Maliki said he would back a continued U.S. troop presence if he found that at least 70 percent of the country’s political leadership favored such a move. He said he would try to reach a decision by the end of July.
The Americans “need time to prepare and get ready for the withdrawal, so they want my decision before August,” he said.
The announcement was the first official indication that al-Maliki might be willing to ask the United States to keep troops in Iraq after Dec. 31, when they’re scheduled to leave under a status of forces agreement between the countries.
The decision to extend their presence is fraught with political peril. Iraq’s Kurds and Sunni Muslims favor an extension, but Shiite Muslims in al-Maliki’s own bloc are opposed.