November 4, 2011 / 4:47 PM / in 6 years

Obama to host Iraq's Maliki before troop pullout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will host Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at the White House on December 12, the White House said on Friday, just weeks before the last American troops are slated to leave the country.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki speaks at a ceremony to mark the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammed at Um al-Qura mosque in Baghdad February 15, 2011. REUTERS/Mohammed Ameen

The United States has about 40,000 troops in Iraq. Obama said last month that they will be withdrawn by December 31 according to the terms of a 2008 bilateral security pact.

“The two leaders will hold talks on deepening the comprehensive strategic partnership between the United States and Iraq,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

The talks come just weeks after lengthy negotiations between officials in Washington and Baghdad failed to reach an accord to keep thousands of U.S. troops in Iraq as that country tries to recover fully from the lengthy war.

The Obama administration has come under some criticism, particularly from Republicans, for the pullout though Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that Iraq can handle itself and there will plenty of U.S. forces still in the region.

The administration has left the door open to negotiating a military training assistance agreement after the U.S. troops leave.

Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington; Editing by Eric Beech

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