SOFA, So Good
In accordance with the status of forces agreement negotiated between the U. S. government and the Iraqi national government last year under Presidents Bush and Maliki, respectively, U. S. forces are no longer to be seen on the streets of Baghdad:
BAGHDAD — Iraq declared a public holiday Tuesday to celebrate the official withdrawal of American troops from Iraqi cities and towns, emptying the streets as many people stayed home because they feared violence.
As official Iraq celebrated, the American military announced the death of four soldiers on Monday from combat operations in Baghdad, a reminder of the continuing hazards for American troops here and the vulnerability of soldiers as they wrap up operations in the field.
In the past few weeks, with the approach of the official date for withdrawal, nationalist sentiments have spread within the Iraqi government and military, with officials all but boasting publicly that Iraq is ready to handle the security situation on its own. The date of June 30 was set in an Iraqi-American security agreement that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2009.
Claiming that American forces have completely left Iraqi cities is a bit of an exaggeration. U. S. forces will remain in the city of Mosul, at least for the time being:
Although the number of daily attacks have been cut in half, security in Mosul is still precarious. Iraqi officials last week agreed to allow several dozen US soldiers to remain at each of five small bases within the city. After June 30, those combat outposts will be called “joint security stations” and the American soldiers will assist their Iraqi counterparts under the new stricter rules.
“The coalition is going to stay in some of the places where we need them — we will call for help,” said General Ghazal.
Additionally, American trainers will continue to be embedded with Iraqi units and I suspect they’ll be spotted in Iraqi cities from time to time.
Although there may be an increase in violence in Iraq as a consequence of the reduced visibility of American forces, I think that this small move in the direction of complete Iraqi sovereignty is wholly salutary and I’d also hope for a substantial reduction in the forces we have in Iraq by the end of the year. I don’t think I have too many illusions about the situation in Iraq. I think the situation will remain dangerous and fractious for the foreseeable future.
I opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and I opposed our withdrawal from Iraq in 2005 or 2006. I think that events have proven me right on both scores. Now I think it’s time for us to start leaving.