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Britain has begun negotiations with the government in Baghdad on a long-term military commitment to Iraq that U.K. officials say could leave significant numbers of troops in the country beyond next year, London’s Financial Times reported Wednesday.

The Ministry of Defence sees a possible longer-term relationship with the Iraqi military similar to what the U.K. has with Oman or Jordan, the paper reported. Some officials, the Times wrote, are keen to counteract media reports that by the middle of next year, substantially all British troops will be out of Iraq.

The government is hoping that next year conditions in Iraq will be right for a big cut in troop numbers from the 4,000 now there. But after that, they say, Britain expects to retain a long-term role that could mean U.K. troops in Iraq would number in the hundreds or low thousands, according to the Times.

Officials told the Times that no decisions have been made, but the longer term roles for U.K. forces could include training Iraqi staff officers and noncommissioned officers for the army, and training Iraq’s navy, marines and air force.

The outcome also depends on the posture taken by the U.S., which — if current security improvements in Iraq continue — is also likely to reduce troop numbers in the country.


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