Senators, defense leaders spar over Iraq

DONNA CASSATA LOLITA BALDOR Associated Press Published:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Senators are complaining that using thousands of contractors in Iraq in place of U.S. troops beginning next year will be more costly and create a greater security risk in the country and the region.

In sharp exchanges, senators complained Tuesday that the U.S. failure to negotiate a continued troop presence in Iraq after the end of this year leaves the country open to influence from Iran.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta fired back, saying the U.S. had to remove all forces from Iraq because Baghdad refused to provide legal immunities for troops that could become involved in combat or counterterrorism activities there.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said America continues to negotiate with Iraq over the kinds of future military assistance America can provide.

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