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NATO training will end turn of the year

NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen

World News: NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Monday announced that a mission to train Iraqi security forces will end at the turn of the year.

“The North Atlantic Council has decided to undertake the permanent withdrawal of the NATO Training Mission-Iraq personnel from Iraq by 31 December 2011,” Rasmussen said in a statement.

The news provided confirmation after Iraq’s top security adviser Falah al-Fayadh told AFP of the decision in an interview aboard a flight transporting Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to Washington.

“Agreement on the extension of this successful programme did not prove possible despite robust negotiations conducted over several weeks,” Rasmussen said.

On November 29, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Iraq was studying a contract to extend NATO’s presence in Iraq beyond year-end, but noted that such a deal would not grant its troops immunity from prosecution.

The failure to agree on immunity from prosecution closely mirrors Iraq’s refusal to grant US soldiers similar protections earlier this year, sinking a potential deal between the two countries that means all American soldiers left in Iraq will leave by year-end.

Started in 2004, Rasmussen said, the NATO mission had trained more than 5,000 military personnel and more than 10,000 police personnel in Iraq.

Since the 2003 US-led invasion, Iraq has built up forces more than 900,000 strong, including an army that US and Iraqi officials reckon is capable of dealing with internal threats, despite the violence.

Around 6,000 US troops remain stationed in the country on three bases, down from peaks of nearly 170,000 soldiers and 505 bases.

Security leaders roundly acknowledge, though, that the country is incapable of defending its borders, airspace and territorial waters.

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