U.S. envoy: Troop extension in Iraq is possible
ByÂ Ed OâKeefe,Â Sunday, JulyÂ 3,Â 6:50Â AM
BAGHDAD â The United States remains open to keeping thousands of troops in Iraq beyond the end of the year if asked, but will require Iraqi forces to provide them with greater security, the U.S. envoy to Iraq said Saturday.
Ambassador James F. Jeffrey told reporters at a roundtable in the capital that the Obama administration would consider a request to keep some of the roughly 46,000 U.S. troops here, but added, âWe do need the Iraqi forces to help us secure our troops and, frankly, to secure themselves.â
But Iraqâs top political leaders are expected to meet again this week to consider asking the United States to keep forces here into next year. Jeffrey would not say Saturday how many troops would likely remain.
His comments followedÂ the deaths of 15 U.S. troops in June, the bloodiest month for the U.S. military here in two years. Military and diplomatic officials blame Iraqi Shiite insurgent groups for the attacks, saying they have obtained deadlier weapons from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and other Iranian sources.
Warning of continued instability, Jeffrey said insurgent groups would be carrying out attacks across the country regardless of the U.S. militaryâs presence.
âIf we werenât around, theyâd go after somebody else,â he said. âWeâre target number one right now, but theyâll find other targets. This is a problem that Iraq has to deal with.â
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