Obama, Maliki Discuss Future of Iraq

Posted December 12th, 2011 at 11:55 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are discussing the future of Iraq in talks at the White House as American forces work to complete their withdrawal from the country by the end of the month.

Monday's talks are expected to focus heavily on how the U.S. and Iraq will begin what White House officials are calling “a new chapter” in their strategic partnership without the presence of American troops in the country. The two leaders are also scheduled to discuss issues such as energy and education.

Mr. Obama and Mr. Maliki will later lay wreaths at nearby Arlington National Cemetery, where some of the nearly 4,500 U.S. service members killed in Iraq since the war began in 2003 are buried. The Iraqi prime minister also is expected to hold talks with Vice President Joe Biden during his two-day visit.

In Brussels Monday, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance will permanently shut down its seven-year training mission in Iraq and withdraw all of its soldiers at the end of the month.

The decision follows Mr. Obama's announcement in October that U.S. troops would return home at year's end after talks to keep thousands of trainers in Iraq fell apart over Baghdad's insistence that all NATO personnel in the country be subject to Iraqi laws and jurisprudence.

U.S. officials had asked for about 3,000 U.S. troops to stay in Iraq, but the Iraqi government was not able to push any agreement on immunity through parliament. The failure to agree on an immunity deal also led to the NATO pullout.

About 7,000 U.S. troops remain in Iraq, more than eight years after invading the country to oust then-dictator Saddam Hussein.