Thursday, November 17, 2011

Some Troops to Stay in Iraq as Trainers, Top Officer Says

Some United States forces will remain as military trainers on 10 bases in Iraq even after an end-of-year deadline for all American troops to be out of the country, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate committee on Tuesday.

The forces will provide training in counterterrorism to Iraqis and also instruction in operating American-made tanks and F-16 fighter jets, General Dempsey said. The trainers are expected to remain largely on the bases, “so this isn’t about us moving around the country very much at all,” he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

General Dempsey did not provide a number, although a military official later said there would be no more than 200 American military personnel in the country. Overall, there will be about 16,000 American Embassy personnel in Iraq, including a large number of civilian contractors as security guards. Currently there are some 24,000 American troops in Iraq.

At a sometimes heated hearing, both General Dempsey and Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta tried to counter criticism from Republicans on the panel that the Obama administration was abandoning Iraq, but also sought to make their case that any military personnel left behind would have limited roles.

Although the Pentagon wanted to leave as many as 20,000 troops in Iraq as a hedge against future violence, President Obama announced last month that all American troops would be home by the end of December.