The Pentagon threw cold water on a story today that US troops are leaving Iraq by year's end, MSNBC reports. "Suggestions that a final decision has been reached about our training relationship with the Iraqi government are wrong," a Pentagon spokesman said. "Those discussions are ongoing." Earlier, the AP reported that Washington failed to renew its security agreement with Baghdad, and would pull out its 41,000 troops by Jan. 1 as planned.
The sticking point was apparently immunity for US troops from Iraqi prosecution. Washington doesn't want to see US soldiers on trial over controversies like Abu Ghraib and the Haditha killings; Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki couldn't promise "immunity votes" in parliament. Even if the US does pull out, it could place troops in nearby Kuwait, and would maintain a huge diplomatic presence in Iraq—including about 5,000 security contractors and personnel to protect diplomats and facilities. (Read more Iraq stories.)