France pushes for more EU engagement in Iraq
France, currently chairing the six-month rotating European Union presidency, is pushing for the bloc to engage more and "without delay" in Iraq, a working paper seen by Financial Times Deutschland reads.
"Our common goal is to contribute to Iraq's success. The EU is therefore ready to engage without delay in this country," says the confidential paper on transatlantic relations discussed on Monday at an informal foreign ministers meeting in Marseille, the German daily reports.
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According to diplomats close to the issue, the EU's help is unlikely to be military, but rather in terms of training the Iraqi police and judiciary, with countries such as Germany and Italy already involved in similar programmes.
The eight-page-long "reflection paper" on transatlantic partnership is still subject to discussions and no decisions have been taken yet.
The timing of such a move serves the interests of the new US president, as he is set to shift the US focus in its War on Terror from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Aides to Mr Obama told the Wall Street Journal that the new administration is likely to deploy tens of thousands of additional US troops to Afghanistan, where security conditions have worsened in recent months. They said Mr Obama would also devote more attention to neighbouring Pakistan, whose support is seen as crucial against neo-Taliban insurgents and al Qaeda.
Alongside the 151,000 US troops, the UK and several eastern European countries still have soldiers in Iraq, mostly set to reduce their contingents or withdraw completely by next year.
Afghanistan meanwhile is a NATO operation. Its 50,700-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), contains 34,000 American troops. The German contingent makes up 3,220 soldiers, but has faced criticism from the Canadian and UK side for its non-involvement in dangerous zones as a result of the Bundestag's mandate, which does not permit German soldiers to take part in combat operations.