Karim Kadim/AP

Treaty Says U.S. Troops to Leave Iraq by End of 2011, But Doubts Remain

October 16, 2008 04:40 PM
by Anne Szustek
To Iraqi approval and U.S. apprehension, officials have come to a final agreement on the timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.

Details on U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement Murky

Iraqi and U.S. officials announced Wednesday they have reached an agreement on when American troops are leaving Iraq: from major cities by the end of next June and from the country completely by Dec. 31, 2011, unless Iraq asks expressly for the troops to stay.

Iraqi sources have not elaborated on the details of the draft. On the U.S. side of the negotiating table, officials have not confirmed the treaty as a done deal, pointing to the need for it to be ratified by three Iraqi government bodies: the cabinet, parliament and the Political Council for National Security. Congress does not need to give formal approval, however its support is considered vital for security in the region.

White House spokesperson Gordon D. Johndroe was quoted in The New York Times as saying, “We are still in discussions with the Iraqis. The Iraqis are in discussions with themselves. And those discussions continue.”

Some members of Iraq’s parliament cast doubt on the prospects of the treaty’s ratification. “In Parliament it will face a lot of opposition,” said independent Kurdish legislator Mahmoud Othman. He added, “The situation is very muddy right now and none of the neighboring countries are enthusiastic about it. … Iran is strongly trying either to delay it or not have it signed; Syria is doing the same. Turkey is also not for it to be signed quickly.”
Geopolitical questions aside, a major sticking point for the U.S. camp was whether the treaty would grant legal immunity for American soldiers accused of abusing or killing Iraqi civilians. Iraqi government official Ali al-Dabbagh was quoted by Reuters as saying that a compromise had been made on that front: “Inside their bases, they will be under American law. Iraqi judicial law will be implemented in cases these forces commit a serious and deliberate felony outside their military bases and when off duty.”

There is a push from both sides to get the treaty ratified before the UN Security Council mandate expires in December. If no deal is finalized by the December deadline, American military forces will need to cease off-base operations.

Background: New U.S. troop deployment

On Sept. 30 the Pentagon announced the deployment of 26,000 additional troops starting this winter and lasting through summer 2009. Some of those units may ultimately be destined for Afghanistan, pending the outcomes of international pacts and the situation on the ground.

“The announcement reflects the continued commitment of the United States to the security of the Iraqi people and provides replacement forces required to maintain the current level of effort in Iraq,” the Department of Defense said in a press release. “Subsequent deployment orders will be issued on force level decisions made in the future.”

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