Obama envoy secretly promised to keep troops in Iraq after 2011, Iraqi intelligence official says

WASHINGTON – A special envoy from President Barack Obama raised the possibility in a secret meeting with senior Iraqi military and civilian officials in Baghdad Sep. 23 that his administration would leave more than 15,000 combat troops in Iraq after the 2011 deadline for U.S. withdrawal, according to a senior Iraqi intelligence official familiar with the details of the meeting.

But the White House official, Puneet Talwar, special assistant to the president and senior director for the Gulf States, Iran and Iraq on the National Security Council (NSC) staff, said the deployment would have to be handled in a way that was consistent the president’s pledge to withdraw U.S. troops completely from Iraq under the 2008 agreement, the official said.

Talwar suggested that the combat troops could be placed under the cover of the State Department’s security force, the Iraqi intelligence official told IPS.

The Obama envoy was referring to a force that the State Department had announced in August to provide security for U.S. civilian officials working in Baghdad and four regional consulates in Kirkuk, Erbil, Mosul and Basra. The administration’s official position is that the security force is to be manned by private security personnel, as explained in a briefing given by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Michael Corbin Aug. 17.

Talwar’s remarks suggest the Obama administration was planning to adopt a ruse to keep combat troops in Iraq after the expiration of the U.S.-Iraq troop withdrawal agreement on Dec. 31, 2011, while assuring the U.S. public that all U.S. troops had been pulled out by the deadline.

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