The United States will not commit itself to defend Iraq under a planned agreement on future relations between the two states, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday.
"The status-of-forces agreement that is being discussed will not contain a commitment to defend Iraq and neither will any strategic framework agreement," Gates said at a U.S. Senate hearing.
"My view is that there ought to be a great deal of openness and transparency with Congress as we negotiate this status of forces agreement so that you can satisfy yourselves that those kinds of commitments are not being made, and that there are no surprises," Gates said.
The Bush administration has stressed that the planned status-of-forces agreement with Iraq will be able to provide a legal foundation for U.S. troops to operate in the country, and will not set the terms of U.S. troop levels there.
There are currently over 150,000 U.S. troops stationed in Iraq.
Some Democratic lawmakers have expressed concerns that the Bush administration might take advantage of such a planned agreement with Iraq to try to lock in a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq before the U.S. presidential elections on Nov. 4.