That the Obama administration has plans to drawn down to a tiny force in Iraq shouldn't be a surprise. The Iraqis haven't (yet) given America permission to stay.
Fox News broke the story yesterday that the Obama administration is planning to cut the US military presence in Iraq to about 3,000 at the start of next year, prompting predictable posturing and hand-wringing from politicians and pundits in the beltway. One thing much of the media commentary has neglected so far? The role of Iraq's politicians and people in making this decision.
There are currently more than 40,000 troops in Iraq, who in August enjoyed their first month without a man or woman killed in action since 2003. The uniformed US presence has been steadily declining since the peak of the US troop surge there in 2007, when about 150,000 troops were in country.
The current US Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq, which authorizes the US presence and provides key assurances to America (for instance, that US troops will be subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, not Iraqi law) is set to expire on Dec. 31. The agreement mandated the US withdrawal from major combat roles in Iraqi cities in 2009, a step that was accordingly taken, and was designed to see a complete withdrawal of US forces by 2012 if a new agreement wasn't reached.
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