A US-Iraq security pact won't set troop levels now, but it could set the stage for long-term strategy.
The US and Iraq are beginning to hammer out a security accord that will define their relationship for years to come, but it probably won't resemble the postwar agreements that have left thousands of American troops in places like Japan, Germany, or South Korea.
Just how different the US-Iraq relationship will be remains far from clear. But neither the Bush administration nor military analysts believe it's in the US interest to have permanent bases in Iraq and look like the occupying country many in the Muslim world suspect it to be. Nevertheless, it's likely that the next administration, be it Democrat or Republican, will agree to having a substantial number of US forces there for at least some years.
The agreement administration officials are working on with the Iraqi government would probably not affect the number of forces being drawn out of Iraq now. But it would set the stage for a long-term security strategy for the two countries.
The Bush administration and the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki have already agreed to a set of "principles for friendship and cooperation" that creates a foundation for a more formal agreement that would normalize relations between the two countries.
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