Gates sees need for US troops in Iraq beyond 2011
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday US troops could be needed in Iraq longer than their departure scheduled for the end of this year, dpa reported.
Iraq could face problems in protecting its airspace as well as difficulties in intelligence gathering and logistics once the Americans withdrawal, Gates told a congressional hearing.
"The Iraqis are going to have some problems that they're going to have to deal with if we are not there in some numbers," Gates said, without providing a figure of how many US soldiers would be needed.
"There is certainly on our part an interest in having an additional presence," Gates said.
President Barack Obama has pledged to withdrawal the remaining force of about 47,000 troops by the end of 2011, sticking to an agreement forged between Washington and Baghdad under Obama's predecessor, George W Bush.
"This is the agreement that was signed by president Bush and the Iraqi government," Gates said. "And we will abide by the agreement, unless the Iraqis ask us to have additional people there."
The United States in August removed its remaining combat units, leaving behind the current presence.