Authors: Jeanette Torres
(WASHINGTON) -- With three-and-a-half-months left to go, Washington and Baghdad aren't close to deciding how many Americans troops will be left in Iraq after the Dec. 31, 2011 deadline.
A pact signed by the previous administration and Iraqi government officials dictated that virtually all U.S. soldiers would be out of Iraq by January. President Obama wants to keep to the letter of the agreement, perhaps leaving just 3,000 of the 47,000 remaining military personnel behind in what mostly will be a training capacity.
However, doubts still persist about the effectiveness of the Iraqi army and police in protecting their own people. As a result, Gen. Lloyd Austin, the U.S. commander in Iraq, says that the Pentagon should keep between 14,000 and 18,000 boots on the ground in Iraq through 2012 with the chief concerns being the continued influence of Iran and the Shiite militias that are probably the biggest obstacle to a stabilized government.
While the administration and military leaders argue this point, Iraqi officials are foot-dragging about what they want. Some worry that a larger U.S. force will be seen as the American occupation being never-ending. Yet, others worry that security will be compromised without a sizeable U.S. military presence.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio