WASHINGTON, Aug. 5 (UPI) — Iraqi security forces are strong enough to defend the country, though they may need additional U.S. support, a U.S. State Department official said.
Iraqi political leaders gave Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki permission to negotiate the status of the remaining U.S. forces in the country. Baghdad said it would consider a presence of U.S. military trainers beyond a December deadline for withdrawal spelled out in a 2008 status of forces agreement.
Mark Toner, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said that Iraqi forces are “strong enough and have the capability to provide security in the country.” In terms of additional training support, he said, Washington was “ready to talk to them about the request.”
A report from U.S. reconstruction officials for Iraq painted a dour picture of the country, saying the security situation there was worse than 12 months ago. Toner dismissed the suggestion, however, saying the overall outlook for Iraq was positive.
“That said, we have also been clear-eyed about our assessment that some of these extremist elements that still exist in Iraq are going to try to take advantage of this transition period,” he acknowledged.