U.S. Abandoning Plans For Residual Force In Iraq?

Some reports today seem to indicate that the United States is abandoning plans to keep a contingent of military forces in Iraq past the December 31st expiration of the current Status of Forces Agreement:

BAGHDAD—The Obama administration is abandoning plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq past a year-end withdrawal deadline.

A senior administration official in Washington confirmed Saturday that all American troops will leave except for about 160 troops attached to the U.S. Embassy. The Pentagon had considered leaving up to 5,000 troops to train security forces and hinder Iranian influence.

That report was seemingly confirmed by The New York Times this morning:

BAGHDAD — An Obama administration proposal to keep a few thousand American troops here after the end of the year to train the Iraqi military is being scaled back, as the administration has concluded that the Iraqi Parliament would not give the troops legal protection, two American officials said on Saturday.

Both countries are still discussing whether to keep some trainers in Iraq, although the number of troops is most likely to be far less than the 3,000 to 5,000 that the administration had discussed with Iraqi leaders, one of the American officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the continuing negotiations.

The officials said the administration’s plans changed in recent weeks as it became clear that the Iraqi Parliament would not give legal immunity to the American troops, something the Pentagon had insisted would be needed if troops were to continue to operate here.

Two weeks ago, the leaders of the Iraqi political blocs said they wanted American troops to remain to train the Iraqi military after the year’s end, but would not provide them legal protections.

Given the political climate in Iraq, not the least including Prime Minister al-Malaki’s decision to cozy up to the Iranians and the Syrians, the lack of legal protections for American troops would strike me as a deal breaker, even there supposed to be there solely for training purposes. The White House is denying the reports that came out last night, for reasons that would seem to be obvious even if a final decision has been made at this point. Nonetheless, it would seem that the plan to keep thousands of troops in Iraq past December 31, 2011 is being heavily modified at least, and perhaps abandoned completely.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Quick Takes, US Politics, World Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed for too young in July 2021.


  1. Andyman says:

    Wonderful news.

    Given the current political climate, I think the administration should be able to count the peace dividend of bringing those troops home early in the next round of debt limit kabuki.

    “I decided not to get your kids killed so that I could afford to pay you the retirement money you’ve been working for” is at least a plausibly successful campaign slogan.

  2. Pan says:

    I always thought the administration’s plan to ask the Iraqis for ‘permission’ to keep the 5000 troops on past the 31 Dec deadline to be highly unrealistic given the Maliki government’s cozying up to Tehran, and his desire to have a showdown with the Sunnis sooner rather than later (without us around to interfere). Look on the bright side, this will give us more than enough bodies to send to Uganda 🙂

  3. Ron Beasley says:

    Many of us predicted at the beginning that the ultimate winner of the Iraq war would be Iran. We were right.

  4. ponce says:

    Looks like Muqtad al-Sadr is a winner as well.

  5. Jim Henley says:

    On the bright side, our eight year odyssey accomplished . . . um.

  6. lou91940 says:

    @Jim Henley:

    you need to close your eyes and look on the bright side of life…. Sadam’s Iraqi Republican Guard were never again able to do another 9/11 attack with all their WMD’s, or something Shrub said like that?

  7. michael reynolds says:

    Gee, what does this do to the narrative about Obama having so many wars? Libya’s essentially done (with zero US casualties,) looks like we’ll get all the way out of Iraq, and we’re drawing down in Afghanistan (With Osama feeding the fishies and Al Qaeda shattered.)

    So the Obama War Monger meme now falls on Predator drones and 100 special forces in Uganda.

  8. David M says:

    Best news of the weekend by far. Now we’re just waiting for the same in Afghanistan.

  9. Rob in CT says:

    Excellent, if true.

  10. Tsar Nicholas II says:

    Well, leaving 3,000 troops would have been a colossal mistake. They would have been nothing more than a fig leaf and a big target for the Jihadists / Iranians. You don’t wage war by quarter measures. Ergo if this report is accurate it’s good news.

  11. Jim Gould says:

    Bringing all of our troops home from Iraq might be the first step toward bringing back all of our residual troops in military bases in 37 other foreign countries. That would make a dent in our countries deficit.