The White House is prepared to keep as many as 10,000 U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of the year, amid growing concern that the planned pullout of virtually all remaining American forces would lead to intensified militant attacks, according to U.S. officials.
Keeping troops in Iraq after the deadline for their departure at the end of December would require agreement of Iraq’s deeply divided government, which is far from certain. The Iraqis so far have not made a formal request for U.S. troops to remain, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
U.S. officials are concerned that Iraqi politicians will only make a decision after most or all of the remaining U.S. troops already have left, forcing the White House into the politically difficult position of deciding whether to send some forces back.
Pentagon officials have been saying for months that they need a decision on whether U.S. forces will remain. Last week, Navy Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, nominated to command U.S. special operations forces, said a small force of special operations troops should remain in order to assist Iraqi units in going after insurgents.