THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Envoy sees role for US in Iraq into 2009

Need for combat mission remains

Email|Print| Text size + By Matthew Lee
Associated Press / February 2, 2008

WASHINGTON - American combat troops will be needed in Iraq at least into 2009 to battle a resilient Al Qaeda and still vibrant insurgency, the top US diplomat to Iraq said yesterday.

Ambassador Ryan Crocker said he would lead Washington's negotiations with Baghdad on an agreement that will govern the US presence there with that in mind, although the next president might "reset the conditions" for troop withdrawals.

The "need for combat operations" in Iraq will be there "certainly into next year, but how far I couldn't say," he said in an interview at the State Department. He offered no deadline for a full withdrawal.

Crocker will be the top US negotiator in talks with the Iraqis expected to begin this month. He said he expected the eventual "status of forces agreement" would allow for great flexibility in pursuing insurgents while not setting definite troop levels.

"I don't think Al Qaeda is going to have gone away after this year and we and the Iraqis are going to want to make sure we are able to pursue them, but questions of force levels and whatnot, those will be executive decisions by this president and by the next," he said. "This agreement is in no way going to get into that executive decision prerogative."

Crocker declined to speculate on how the US presidential election campaign, particularly calls for troop withdrawals by Democratic candidates, will affect the negotiations.

He also would not speculate on whether President Bush's planned force drawdown will continue after the summer. One Army brigade and two Marine battalions have returned home and will not be replaced. Four other Army brigades are to depart by July, leaving 15 brigades, or about 130,000 to 135,000 troops in Iraq.

He said yesterday's suicide bombings by two women that killed scores of people in Baghdad underscored the resilience of Al Qaeda, its desire to sow instability, and the US need to combat it.

Crocker also said Iran continues to train insurgents and supply them with weapons.

more stories like this

  • Email
  • Email
  • Print
  • Print
  • Single page
  • Single page
  • Reprints
  • Reprints
  • Share
  • Share
  • Comment
  • Comment
 
  • Share on DiggShare on Digg
  • Tag with Del.icio.us Save this article
  • powered by Del.icio.us
Your Name Your e-mail address (for return address purposes) E-mail address of recipients (separate multiple addresses with commas) Name and both e-mail fields are required.
Message (optional)
Disclaimer: Boston.com does not share this information or keep it permanently, as it is for the sole purpose of sending this one time e-mail.