Add GIs in Kuwait for Iraq back-up?

Posted: September 09, 2011

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is considering staging American troops in Kuwait next year as a backup or rotational training force for Iraq, after the Pentagon completes the scheduled withdrawal of its 45,000-strong force from Iraq in December, U.S. officials said.

The proposal, not yet publicly announced, is among the options the administration is considering for extending its military-training role in still-violent Iraq, whose divided government has been reluctant to ask Washington directly to keep troops on its soil beyond this year.

All troops are to depart Iraq by Dec. 31 under a 2008 security agreement, but senior U.S. officials are concerned that without more training, the Iraqi forces may squander hard-won security gains. The Iraqi army, for example, is only now taking delivery of U.S. battle tanks, on which they have yet to be trained.

The Obama administration favors a proposal that would leave 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq next year to train Iraqi forces, U.S. officials said this week.

It has not previously been reported that staging U.S. forces in Kuwait as a part of that training mission - or possibly in addition to that mission - is under consideration. No decisions have been made, and it was not clear whether direct talks with the Kuwaiti government have begun.

Kuwait has played a key role in the Iraq war from its beginning. The bulk of U.S. ground forces launched the invasion from Kuwaiti territory in March 2003, and the tiny Gulf state has served as a transit point for coalition supplies throughout the conflict. The U.S. maintains a small force in the country now.

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