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Panetta: Iraqi Leaders Should Decide on US Presence in Iraq

Photo: U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jacob N. Bailey

According to Assistant Defense Secretary of Public Affairs Douglas Wilson, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wants Iraqi leaders to make a decision about the status of U.S. presence in Iraq. Panetta, who has been in Iraq since Monday, met with the country’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani.

Wilson noted Panetta made three points with each leader, with the first being the need for the Iraqi government to appoint defense and interior ministers. “The second area of focus had to do with the rising number of attacks by extremists elements here backed by Iran and provided with Iranian weapons,” Wilson said.

He noted the former CIA director takes the security and protection of U.S. troops very seriously, and urged the prime minister and the president to aggressively address the extremist elements. Panetta’s third point focused on the agreement between the U.S. in Iraq in 2008, stating U.S. troops would be out of Iraq by the end of this year.

“He made it very clear that time is running out for a decision and that the United States needs to know if there is going to be a request, and that such a request needs to be made sooner rather than later,” Wilson said. “The logistics and economics of a reversal cannot turn on a dime.”

Wilson said Panetta did not give Iraqi leaders a deadline to make a decision, but his message of a swift decision being made was needed as soon as possible.

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