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Troops Well-Protected Under U.S.-Iraq Agreement, Gates Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17, 2008 – Servicemembers should not be concerned about the status of forces agreement between the United States and Iraq, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today.

The secretary told Pentagon reporters that the agreement – now circulating as a draft in Washington and Baghdad – has adequate protections for American servicemembers.

Gates said former Multinational Force Iraq commander Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, current commander Army Gen. Raymond T. Odierno and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker have been deeply involved in the negotiations. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, approve of the agreement.

The agreement will allow American forces to continue to operate in Iraq and train the Iraqi security forces once the United Nations Security Council mandate expires on Dec. 31.

“Admiral Mullen, General Petraeus, General Odierno and I are all satisfied that our men and women in uniform serving in Iraq are well-protected” by the agreement, Gates said.

Gates is consulting with Senate and House armed services committee leaders about the agreement, which does not require congressional approval to become effective.

“The four leaders I talked to from the armed services committees were generally positive, but clearly are looking forward to seeing the exact text,” Gates said.

White House officials discussed the text of the agreement with congressional staffers this morning.

The Iraqis want to assume control of their own security, and the draft agreement includes goals for withdrawal of American troops, if security conditions permit.

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