Pentagon wants new Iraq security pact

Pentagon officials want a new security pact with Iraq worked out as soon as possible, in part so they can extend support contracts to ensure U.S. forces remaining in that country have food and supplies.

Gen. Raymond Odierno, tapped to be the new Army chief of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee “the sooner, the better” in response to a question about how soon the military would prefer a new “status of forces agreement” be put into place.

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Under the current agreement, all U.S. forces must be removed from Iraq by Dec. 31. Senior U.S. officials, however, have said recently they expect Baghdad will ask Washington to keep some forces there after the new year.

A quick deal will “make this an appropriate transition,” said Odierno, who commanded U.S. forces in Iraq from 2008 to 2010. But he said there is going to “have to be work done before then” on the terms of a new security pact.

That new SOFA would, if requested by Iraqi leaders, be based on a joint U.S.-Iraqi assessment of the security situation in Iraq, Odierno said.

Meantime, Alan Estevez, tapped to become assistant defense secretary for logistics and materiel readiness, told the same panel last week that Pentagon officials need to know soon whether Iraq wants some U.S. troops to stay in the country.

U.S. military officials continue closing bases in Iraq, and “it would be difficult” to re-open any of those, Estevez said.

If Iraqi officials do ask American forces to stay, they will need everything from food to ammunition to other supplies and gear to keep flowing into the war-torn nation.

The removal of the remaining U.S. forces is slated to begin this fall, Estevez said. And there are certain logistics “tripwires” that will begin to be set off in coming months.

While a number of food and supply contracts will begin expiring in the fall, Pentagon officials are confident they can “pick those back up” as needed, the nominee said.