Iraqi leaders agree to continued US troop presence beyond 2011

As Iraqi political forces significantly realign their allegiances, leaders have agreed to negotiate a deal to allow some US troops to remain in Iraq beyond December 2011.

Background

Although the Iraqi security forces are capable of maintaining internal security, they are still many years away from developing a force that is capable of defending Iraq from external threats. The Iraqi security forces will require significant amounts of equipment and training assistance over the next five to 10 years in order to achieve this.

The status of forces agreement (SOFA) under which US forces operate was signed in 2008 and runs out in December 2011. A new agreement is required if US troops are to stay beyond 2011. The US currently has 44,000 troops in Iraq. As far back as April 6, former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates delivered a message to Iraqi leaders that they must decide as soon as possible if they want US troops to remain beyond the December deadline. However, political disagreement within the Iraqi parliament had prevented a decision from being reached.

On Aug. 3, following four hours of closed-door talks led by President Jalal Talabani, an agreement was reached by Iraqi leaders to negotiate a deal to allow some US troops to remain in Iraq beyond the end of 2011.

Political realignment: Allawi in, Sadr out

In order to reach the agreement, a significant realignment of political forces within the Iraqi parliament seems to have taken place.

The deal brought former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi and his Iraqiya party into the governing coalition in order to support the agreement. The deal included the activation of a national security council that he is to head. In addition it calls for Allawi’s party to choose a new defense minister (in charge of the Iraqi Army) in exchange for Mr. Maliki and his allies choosing the interior minister(in charge of the Iraqi Police). Those powerful posts have been vacant because of political disagreements since the governing coalition was formed in December. With Allawi’s backing, Prime Minister Maliki now has enough support for the agreement to be passed by parliament, even though the Sadrist bloc opposed it and has been a significant force blocking it.

The Sadrist bloc was an essential part of Maliki’s governing coalition, which was put together after Maliki’s State of Law party won fewer seats than Allawi’s Iraqiya party in last year’s parliamentary elections. The Sadrist bloc, with about 10 percent of the seats, became one of the kingmakers in parliament during the deadlock that followed and played a major role in finally electing Maliki to his second term as prime minister. But, yesterday, the head of the Sadrist bloc walked out of the meeting in protest over the agreement. The Sadrist bloc considers the US to be an occupying force and has threatened to return to violent opposition if US troops remain in Iraq.

So now “all political leaders have agreed on the US training mission in Iraq except the Sadrists, who have some reservations,” said President Talabani.

“One reason that we were encouraged by what has happened last night and frankly what has happened recently in the political give-and-take here is that there seem to be broad partnerships in political coalitions emerging that take tough decisions,” said a US embassy official, according to the Christian Science Monitor report.

An agreement to negotiate an agreement

A new SOFA agreement between Iraq and the US is not a done deal. This is just the start of negotiations, and a number of significant details still need to be worked out.

A possible agreement could include a drawdown from the current 44,000 US troops to between 3,000 and 6,000 troops that would take place by the December 2011. These remaining troops would stay in Iraq until 2015, with a possible extension to 2020.

The goals of the remaining US troops could include:

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12 Comments

  • Ian says:

    I’m proud of the work that America has done in Iraq, although I wasn’t particularly pleased to have us entrenched there when our casus belli proved to be b.s. That being said, we certainly saw it through to an end (in the process ending a bloody, awful civil war and defeating a barbaric insurgency). I’m not so sure we should stay there any longer. Maybe a base would be a better solution.

  • Nick Hanz says:

    If the US stays, Sadr will activate his Mehdi Militia, and there will be violence. Hence, desperately pleading time and time again with the “Iraqi” government, and being told NO several times is pathetic, and shows a major loss of credibility.
    Iraq will not permit any deal as Sistani has already made it pretty clear through Sadr that there can be no extension.
    The media makes a fool out of Obama who on one hand says he is ending wars, but on the other is practically begging Iraq to stay.
    How many times has the request been denied?

  • Victor says:

    Hey, Nick. We aren’t pleading for anything, the Iraqis are begging us to stay. Can you not read?

  • BobbyD says:

    Nick, in case you missed it. Sadr’s militia is active already under the Promised Day Brigade. In June, 15 US Soldiers were killed. In July, 5. Joint Iraqi-US operations quickly reduced the problem and will continue to do so if needed. Sadr can threaten all he wants, but he will never have the power or the ability to cause chaos like he did a few years ago. The only people who think he holds any influence is the uninformed western media and his followers in Sadr City. The truth of the matter is that his small representation in the Iraqi government were the only ones who objected to an extended US presence. I don’t see any loss in credibility when 90% of the Iraqi government agrees to an extended US presence.

  • amagi says:

    Inasmuch as we wish to counter Iranian influence in the region (and inasmuch as our agenda aligns with the Iraqis on this point) there is excellent reason for us to maintain a presence.
    Don’t forget who is now going to helm the CIA. I actually think this whole process has been played out rather coolly by the Americans. If Sadr re-activates his militia, a significant US force reduction will provide him with fewer targets, and, seeing as our trainers are a direct benefit to the government, I rather suspect it will limit what Sadr is able to accomplish in this fashion. If 6,000 Americans remain, will ~28 million Iraqis still feel occupied? The occupation has long been ranked well below corruption, unemployment, lack of services, etc. on the list of complaints of the common Iraqi. Sadr would do much better to pay attention to those voices or he risks irrelevance.
    Meanwhile, we can play out our dispute with Iran covertly, with the tacit acceptance but public denial of the Iraqi government (how’s that for a change!).
    I would hesitate to say that Allawi is ‘in’ and Sadr is ‘out.’ There is still plenty of time for a spoiler and I think Iran has yet to pull out all the stops to their opposition (whatever that may mean). The Middle East is where optimism goes to die. I try not to get my hopes up, but I think the odds of a long term positive outcome from this war — for both Iraq and America — are looking pretty high to me. If anyone has arguments to the contrary, I would be interested in hearing them.

  • CC says:

    Let Sadr re-activate his militia. It will further expose him for what he is. Violence and threats have no place in a democracy. The man is a pawn of Iran anyway and I’m sure Talabani and al-Maliki know that. al-Maliki is doing the smart thing by building consensus among the elected leaders. With consensus, it will be easier to isolate al-Sadr should he choose to embrace warfare.

  • Sashland says:

    It has been all about just enjoying the show for the US Government and playing along; far from begging, both sides already know the outcome. I learned here a few years ago when the US military would actually leave Iraq by reading the Order of Battle reports – it is pretty obvious that an operating Air Force is essential for self defense from foreign and domestic enemies. When they can manage their own helicopters and jet they will have the uniforms gone, except for friendly visits.
    And Ina, sorry but, baloney that the ‘casus belli was b.s.’: attacks on the US Military, attempted assassination of Ex-President, multi-billion dollar theft from “Oil-for-Food” (sic) program, illegal rocket production, design and commencement of construction of plants to produce banned chemical precursors, biological weaponry lab conducting “experiments” on humans, design/build facility for making concealed bombs, assassination campaign aimed at Iraqi opposition living in Europe planned for summer of invasion year, and those nice little events of mass murder and ethnic cleansing. Go read the Duelfer Report and then we can chat: //www.gpoaccess.gov/duelfer/index.html
    just don’t drop that s. here and expect a pass. the man and his regime was an enemy of the US who continually violated the terms of the ceasefire and cause was just and legal. Deal with it.

  • jason b says:

    Any chance we get reimbursed for this troop extension? can we continually police the world without compensation from those we are helping? especially when they have resources.

  • T2 says:

    You mention it as almost an after thought at the end of your report, but the issue of legal immunity would seem to be a big sticking point based upon past performance DoD and private contractors. Rule of law for everyone.

  • Chris says:

    “You mention it as almost an after thought at the end of your report, but the issue of legal immunity would seem to be a big sticking point based upon past performance DoD and private contractors. Rule of law for everyone.”
    This will be an issue that will definitely have to be handled by parliament at minimum.However,with the super-majority being in favor of the presence anyway I don’t think this will become an issue come hell or high water.

  • crosspatch says:

    I find this interesting for several reasons. I see the waning of Sadr’s influence as a possible waning of Iranian influence which would seem to be validated by the elevation in status of Allawi’s bloc.
    Could Iran’s domestic actions of the past year or so possibly have repercussions that are starting to spill over onto how Iraq views them?
    I heard several months ago that many Iranians were now sending their zakat to Najaf rather than Qom. One thing that has interested me is how the relationship of Najaf relative to Qom will play out in the years ahead. Will the center of gravity of global Shiite theology begin to shift to Najaf? Would the threat of a loss of influence give the Iranians incentive to keep the situation in Iraq unstable to the extent that they can?

  • Soccer says:

    I wonder of Obama’s disillusioned support base will hold his fingers to the fire when it comes to withdrawing from Iraq, because really, we haven’t.
    A good way for someone to get a foothold on Obama in the 2012 elections is by simply telling the public that Obama did not get us out of Iraq and thus he continued Bush’s policies of racking up the debt and spending us into oblivion.
    Just an observation, but an important thought since the current way the GWOT is being fought may not be the same come January 2013.

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