By Ria Novosti
U.S. officials are urgently redrawing a 2012 military training plan for Iraqi troops after Iraq’s leaders announced they would not grant immunity to troops who remain after the December 31 deadline for withdrawal, The Washington Post reported on Sunday.
“Since Tuesday, when Iraqi leaders formally requested that U.S. military training continue into next year, military and diplomatic officials in Washington and Baghdad have been sketching alternative proposals that could place training in the hands of private security contractors or NATO, entities that can be legally covered some other way,” the paper said.
Leaders of Iraq’s political blocs on Tuesday admitted the need for trainers but asserted their sovereignty by withholding immunity, which would have exempted the trainers from prosecution in the Iraqi judicial system.
At the same time, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said on Tuesday that any remaining U.S. troops must have immunity, the paper said.
A State Department official said on Saturday that while Iraq was not likely to budge on its resistance to military immunity, there were other ways for continuing the U.S. training mission in the country.
Iraqi experts say that under no circumstances would the Iraqi parliament sanction immunity for U.S. troops.
“Americans misuse immunity. They’ve had it for eight years. They made a lot of violations … Sometimes they killed people, attacked people, captured people, and no one could tell them anything. Iraq doesn’t want a repeat of that,” the paper quoted Iraqi independent lawmaker Mahmoud Othman as saying.
“The U.S. government is working out what our vision of legal status options are that we will live with. The U.S. government has not yet presented that to the Iraqis. They may accept it. They may not,” the paper quoted a U.S. State Department official as saying.
Iraq has ordered nearly $9 billion worth of U.S. military equipment and recently arranged a deal to buy 18 fighter jets worth $3 billion, the paper said.
U.S. forces currently number over 40,000 service members and are withdrawing from Iraq at an average of 500 soldiers per day. Previous talks between the U.S. and Iraq hinted at an ongoing training presence of 3,000 to 5,000 troops, but the number of trainers is likely to be lower now that military immunity is off the table, the paper said.