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Iraqi Prime Minister Will Keep Door Open for U.S. Military Role After 2011

Speaking at an exclusive event at the U.S. Institute of Peace on July 23, 2009, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki kept the door open for continuing the U.S. military presence in his country beyond 2011, when the current Status of Forces Agreement expires.

“If Iraqi forces need more training and support, we will reexamine the agreement at that time, based on our own national needs,” the prime minister said through a translator, as he addressed nearly 100 audience members at USIP headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“I am sure that the will, the prospects and desire for cooperation is based with both [the U.S. and Iraq],” said Prime Minister Maliki, in response to a question from The Washington Independent’s Spencer Ackerman.

A day earlier, the prime minister met with President Barack Obama at the White House, where the president said he was “very encouraged” by Iraq’s progress in taking over security responsibilities and that the U.S. is on track to withdraw all its military forces by 2011. Still, President Obama expressed concern for improved ethnic reconciliation, especially ahead of the national elections in January 2010.

In his first public appearance in the U.S. during this visit, Prime Minister Maliki delivered remarks for 30 minutes and then fielded questions from USIP for another 30 minutes.  He talked about the various social and political improvements in Iraq in the last several years, the impact of the global financial crisis on Iraq’s oil-dependent economy, the need to resolve tensions between Kurds and Iraqis and need to build up Iraq’s security sector more.

For background on the visit of Prime Minister Maliki, watch USIP’s Sam Parker discuss recent developments inside Iraq, and the state of U.S.-Iraqi relations.