Panetta Plans to Keep Military in Iraq

Zhang Jun, Xinhua / Landov

A senior military official told The New York Times that new defense secretary Leon Panetta has introduced a plan to keep 3,000 to 4,000 troops in Iraq past the end of 2011—breaking the key deadline that President Obama had set to remove all troops from that country. The remaining soldiers would be there only to train security personnel, the official said. But the plan still needs to be approved by the White House—hardly guaranteed, despite the fact that it leaves far fewer troops than the 14,000 to 18,000 proposed by the senior American commander in Iraq, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III. Even as the U.S. reduces its troops in Iraq, the CIA presence will continue—as will that of private security contractors working for the State Department. One military official said this plan is “backwards,” since the military will be deciding plans for Iraq’s security based on the number of troops left in that country.