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It's official: Barack Obama's "16 month" withdrawal from Iraq must begin no later than two years from next September. Unless conditions change, then it might be sooner or later.
Thanksgiving in America, and in Iraq the Parliament approved the Status of Forces Agreement. The news was scarcely noted on our shores as coverage of our national day of plenty gave way to that of the busiest shopping day of the year even as both vied with reports of terror in faraway places for the attention of those not otherwise engaged.
And the English language version of the document was finally released, clarifying some of the issues raised by the previously available translations of the Arabic version. Those questions were noted here, but most are resolved in the now released official English version.
The withdrawal from cities and towns (Article 24):
All United States combat Forces shall withdraw from Iraqi cities, villages, and localities no later than the time at which Iraqi Security Forces assume full responsibility for security in an Iraqi province, provided that such withdrawal is completed no later than June 30, 2009.And the total withdrawal (also Article 24) must indeed be accomplished "no later than December 31, 2011" - meaning President-elect Obama's "16 months" must begin no later than two years from next September. (The withdrawal of combat Brigades, however, began months ago and is ongoing.)
Unless both Parties agree that conditions have changed (Article 27):
In the event of any external or internal threat or aggression against Iraq that would violate its sovereignty, political independence, or territorial integrity, waters, airspace, its democratic system or its elected institutions, and upon request by the Government of Iraq, the Parties shall immediately initiate strategic deliberations and, as may be mutually agreed, the United Sates shall take appropriate measures, including diplomatic, economic, or military measures, or any other measure, to deter such a threat.Meanwhile, as "combat forces" withdraw, training and support forces remain (Article 27):
The Parties agree to continue close cooperation in strengthening and maintaining military and security institutions and democratic political institutions in Iraq, including, as may be mutually agreed, cooperation in training, equipping, and arming the Iraqi Security Forces, in order to combat domestic and international terrorism and outlaw groups, upon request by the government of Iraq.But (Article 24),
The United States recognizes the sovereign right of the Government of Iraq to request the departure of the United States Forces from Iraq at any time. The Government of Iraq recognizes the sovereign right of the United States to withdraw the United States Forces from Iraq at any time.But at least the agreement is final, right? Well, maybe not:
The vote in favor of the pact was backed by the ruling coalition's Shiite and Kurdish blocs as well as the largest Sunni Arab bloc, which had demanded concessions for supporting the deal. The Shiite bloc agreed to a Sunni demand that the pact be put to a referendum by July 30, meaning the deal must undergo an additional hurdle next year.And will provincial governments (after the provincial elections scheduled for January) also have input on these issues? One might expect they certainly would.
One final note (for now).You'll likely hear some chatter regarding "controls on private security contractors" established by this document. Much of this chatter will be misguided and uninformed. The SOFA only applies to military forces in Iraq - meaning the DoD. (See the definitions in Article 3. For example, "Member of the civilian component" in this agreement is defined as "a civilian employed by the United States Department of Defense". "Contractors" are defined as those in Iraq under contract with U.S. Forces, and U.S. Forces members are defined as members of the Army, Navy, etc.) This agreement has nothing whatsoever to do with the State Department.
Why does that matter? For the most part it's State, not Defense*, that employs the much (and usually wrongly) maligned "private security contractors" of the Blackwater variety. "Security contractors" employed by DoD are used to check I.D. at the DFAC. The SOFA defines who might have legal jurisdiction over one if they were to sneak off base and steal a brass lamp from a shop. It does not address the hypothetical fate of one of the members of State's (soon to be Hillary Clinton's) private Army if they were accused of shooting up a town square in response to a perceived threat.
*There are (non-security) contractors for Defense that might hire (sub contract) private security; they may be covered under this agreement.
"Shooting up a town square" is just tip of the iceberg here. Paying private contractors more in a year than a soldier makes in an (extended) enlistment is just plain nuts. The State Department used to have a fine set of 'security contractors'. We call them United States Marines!Posted by Woodsywizz at December 14, 2008 10:03 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(1) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)