In Iraq, that is.
Under a security agreement signed between Washington and Baghdad last November during president George Bush’s tenure, U.S. troops will withdraw from towns and cities by June 30 and from the whole country by the end of 2011.
Apparently the first milestone is in a bit of danger.
President Obama during his recent visit to Iraq:
Under enormous strain and under enormous sacrifice, through controversy and difficulty and politics, you’ve kept your eyes focused on just doing your job. And because of that, every mission that’s been assigned — from getting rid of Saddam, to reducing violence, to stabilizing the country, to facilitating elections — you have given Iraq the opportunity to stand on its own as a democratic country. That is an extraordinary achievement, and for that you have the thanks of the American people. That’s point number one.
Point number two is, this is going to be a critical period, these next 18 months. I was just discussing this with your commander, but I think it’s something that all of you know. It is time for us to transition to the Iraqis. They need to take responsibility for their country and for their sovereignty.
It looks like the Iraqis are taking responsibility for their country and for their sovereignty, and for some of ours. The US is no longer in charge of its own force deployments and the June 30 deadline may be out the window.
Colonel Volesky, Commander, 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team 1st Cavalry Division :
The 30 June date that’s — that’s out there, we are conducting an assessment right now with our Iraqi counterparts to determine what the way ahead is for security in Mosul. And based on that assessment, a decision will be made what we will do on 30 June. If the Iraqi government believes we should stay in Mosul to continue the security progress, we’ll support our Iraqi counterparts past 30 June and continue to build on the momentum that we’ve got here.
General Odierno, Commander US Forces Iraq:
“If we believe that we’ll need troops to maintain presence in some of the cities, we’ll recommend that, but, ultimately, it’s the decision of Prime Minister [Nuri al-] Maliki,” said Odierno, who was speaking from a U.S. base in Iraq.
Who’s in charge?
Nouri Kamil Mohammed Hassan al-Maliki, born June 20, 1950, also known as Jawad al-Maliki, is the Prime Minister of Iraq and the secretary-general of the Islamic Dawa Party.
Maliki has made four visits to neighboring Iran. During his most recent visit he said:
“Our security achievements and redeeming Iraq from the sectarian war gave us the chance to exert more efforts to accelerate the process of reconstruction and development, which needs the presence of neighboring countries’ companies.”
He has made one visit to Russia.
“Russian companies are already working on our territory and we want such Russian participation to widen and to grow,” the Shiite prime minister said as he was welcomed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Do you think that the US Secretary of State might have some influence in this important matter? It’s doubtful. Hillary Clinton called for Maliki to be removed from office in 2007. Senator Clinton urged Iraq’s parliament to select a “less divisive and more unifying figure”.
UPDATE: A reader has raised the issue of the second SOFA milestone, complete US military withdrawal before 2011. This leads to the obvious question: If Iraq is the final decider on June 30, as they appear to be, can’t they be expected to fulfill the same roll on 2011 with Washington’s compliance? And given the very real possibility of a non-compliance with 6/30, and the lack of any troop withdrawals to date or in the immediate future, and the current crackdown by the ruling Shi’ites on Sunnis under US military protection, isn’t it likely that any 2011 decision by Iraq would be for a continued US military presence beyond the end of next year?
Don Bacon is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley Butler Society several years ago because, as General Butler said, war is a racket. Other articles by Don Bacon may be found here.