USA to Iraq: Oh, alright...
Gates: US open to request from Iraq to stay
The United States is open to the idea of keeping troops in Iraq past a deadline to leave next year if Iraq asks for it, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday.
"We'll stand by," Gates said. "We're ready to have that discussion if and when they want to raise it with us."
Gates urged Iraq's squabbling political groups to reconcile after eight months of deadlock. Any request to extend the U.S. military presence in Iraq would have to come from a functioning Iraqi government. It would amend the current agreement under which U.S. troops must leave by the end of 2011.
"That initiative clearly needs to come from the Iraqis; we are open to discussing it," Gates said.
U.S. and Iraqi officials have said for months that they expect Iraqi leaders to eventually ask for an extension of the military agreement with the U.S., but the political impasse has put the idea on hold.