BAGHDAD — Iraq expects Washington's reply on proposed changes to a draft security agreement after the U.S. elections, an aide to the prime minister said Sunday.
Yassin Majeed said the U.S. will respond to Iraq's amendments to the pact after Tuesday's elections so the new president-elect can be informed of the status of the talks.
Since May, U.S. and Iraqi officials have been trying to hammer out a new security agreement by the end of the year that would keep U.S. troops in the country until 2011.
The current draft calls for all U.S. forces to leave by Dec. 31, 2011, unless Iraq asks them to stay. It also gives Iraqi courts limited jurisdiction over U.S. troops accused of major crimes committed off post and off duty.
But the pact faces opposition from Iraqi lawmakers, and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Cabinet is pressing for changes in the draft text before submitting it to parliament for approval.
Al-Maliki wants more jurisdiction over U.S. troops and guarantees that Iraqi territory will not be used by the U.S. to launch attacks on neighboring countries, like last weekend's U.S. raid into Syria. Baghdad also wants to remove language that could allow the U.S. to stay beyond the end of 2011.
Without a new agreement, the U.S. would have to suspend all security and assistance operations in the country.
Iraqi authorities are feeling more confident since a sharp drop in violence in the country after the Sunni revolt against al-Qaida and the routing of Shiite militias in Baghdad and southern Iraq last spring.
Still, attacks continue, although at a lower level, and U.S. officials warn the gains are reversible.
Iraq's forces have made strides this past year, but it remains unclear just how prepared they are to take full responsibility for the country's domestic security, let alone answer for its defense from threats abroad.
Lt. Gen. Nasier Abadi, the Iraqi army's deputy chief of staff, said the military had drawn up a report for the Defense Ministry on the military's capabilities to defend the country "in case the friendly forces withdraw."
He did not elaborate, other than saying the report's conclusions had been taken into consideration in Baghdad's hard-nosed negotiations with Washington on the security agreement.
Also Sunday, the U.S. military said it killed two insurgents near Tal Afar, some 260 miles northwest of Baghdad, and detained 11 suspected militants in other operations targeting al-Qaida in Iraq across the country.
Two Iraqi soldiers were killed in the northern city of Mosul when their patrol hit a roadside bomb, while in Baghdad a policeman was killed and another was wounded in Baghdad when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb, authorities said.
In Kirkuk, some 180 miles north of the capital, a bomb hidden in a scrap heap exploded, killing two children and injuring their father and two siblings as they played football nearby. Also, unidentified gunmen kidnapped a 15-year-old girl in a village outside the city, regional authorities said.
The Iraqi officials all spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.