US officials redraw Iraqi troops training plan

By IANS/RIA Novosti,

New York : US officials are 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 Sunday.

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“Since Tuesday, when Iraqi leaders formally requested that US 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 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, US Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said Tuesday that any remaining US troops must have immunity, the paper said.

A State Department official said Saturday that while Iraq was not likely to budge on its resistance to military immunity, there were other ways for continuing the US training mission in the country.

Iraqi experts say that under no circumstances would the Iraqi parliament sanction immunity for US 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 US government is working out what our vision of legal status options are that we will live with. The US government has not yet presented that to the Iraqis. They may accept it. They may not,” the paper quoted a US State Department official as saying.

Iraq has ordered nearly $9 billion worth of US military equipment and recently arranged a deal to buy 18 fighter jets worth $3 billion.

US 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 US 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.