The unrest in Iraq comes as the Obama administration continues to float the prospect of a prolonged U.S. occupation. On Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told a congressional hearing that Iraq will face strong challenges if the United States follows through on a planned withdrawal later this year. Gates repeated previous assertions that a withdrawal could be delayed if the U.S.-backed Iraqi government requests it.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “There is certainly, on our part, an interest in having an additional presence. And the truth of the matter is, the Iraqis are going to have some problems that they’re going to have to deal with if they’re — if we are not there in some numbers. They will not be able to do the kind of job in intelligence fusion. They won’t be able to protect their own airspace. They — they will not — they will have problems with logistics and maintenance. But, it’s their country. It’s a sovereign country. This is the agreement that was signed by President Bush and the Iraqi government. And we will abide by the agreement, unless the Iraqis ask us to have additional people there.”