WASHINGTON– The top U.S. commander in Iraq has proposed a tripartite arrangement between American, Iraqi and Kurdish forces to shore up security in disputed areas of northern Iraq.

The proposal by Gen. Raymond Odierno is only in the discussion phase, but leaders involved in the talks have been receptive, according to a defense official speaking on background. The initiative has been characterized as “a confidence-building measure” aimed at protecting Iraqis and preventing disputed areas “from being used as a seam” by insurgents.

Defense officials declined to comment on how the proposed security force would be implemented in accordance with an agreement between Baghdad and Washington that forced the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraqi cities June 30.

If approved, the altered security arrangement would be a temporary measure to improve confidence in the security situation and pressure terrorist networks, officials said.

Following his meeting yesterday with senior officials from Baghdad and Kurdistan, Odierno hailed the talks as an important step forward in defining a joint security framework for the disputed areas in the provinces of Ninewa, Diyala and Kirkuk.

“Today’s meeting represents an important first step in working through the security issues in the disputed areas,” Odierno said yesterday in a Multinational Force Iraq news release. “I was pleased with the positive and overall sense of cooperation. All parties are focused on improving security for all Iraqis.”

Odierno met yesterday with the Iraqi government’s defense and interior ministers, and the interior minister and military commander of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the news release says.

In addition to the proposed troop arrangement, the group also discussed unity of command, coordination measures, force-level arrangements, intelligence sharing, and rule-of-law oversight, according to the release.

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