The Obama administration would like to keep about 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the end of this year but has not begun formal discussions with the Iraqis about the size or makeup of the force, U.S. officials said.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has expressed a desire to keep some U.S. trainers in the country in 2012, past the deadline negotiated by the George W. Bush administration to remove all U.S. troops from the country.
But the Iraqi leader faces staunch opposition from key members of his coalition government who are deeply opposed to any U.S. presence. Some members of the coalition have threatened to boycott the government if it allows any U.S. forces to stay.
Senior U.S. officials have said they are hopeful that they will be able to reach an agreement with the Iraqis on maintaining the small training force. The Iraqis will have to agree to any U.S. presence.