Gates: Americans to be in Iraq beyond 2011

US Defense Secretary Robert Gates (C-L) is escorted off his airplane by US Ambassador to the UAE Richard Olson (C-R) after Gates arrived for a visit on April 8, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (AFP Photo / Chip Somodevilla)
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said on many occasions American troops would be willing to remain in Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government, now it appears he is willing to commit Americans even without such a request.

A pullout of American troops was set to begin in 2011; Gates however has recently expressed an increased desire to remain in the country well beyond that date.

His message to Iraq is clear – ‘you need us, period.’

In a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and the president of the autonomous Kurdistan region, Massud Barzani Gates explained it was time Iraq completed forming its government and invited US military assistance beyond 2011.

It appears an invitation is now less of an option, and more of a requirement.

My basic message to them is for us to just be present in some areas where they still need help," Gates said.

He explained the amount of troops would be less than what currently remaining in Iraq, but American boots would remain on the ground nonetheless. Those who remain behind would serve in “advise and assist roles, as we have in a number of other countries," Gates said.

Maliki however contends Iraq can take care of itself.

"Our armed forces, police and army are now capable of deterring any aggression, and its capabilities to impose security and stability are growing day by day," Maliki told Gates.

Gates recently told Congress that Iraq was not yet ready for a full US withdraw, arguing the Iraqis would be unable to secure their own borders and airspace and "have problems with logistics and maintenance."