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Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday he hopes Iraqi leaders will ask US troops to stay in their country beyond a year-end deadline but acknowledged the United States was unpopular there.
While extending the US military presence beyond this year would send an important message to Arab allies and to Washington's archfoe Iran, Iraqi politicians faced a "challenge" in weighing such a move, Gates said.
"We have to realize that it is a political challenge for the Iraqis, because whether we like it or not, we're not very popular there," Gates said at a conference at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank.