As the Iraqi parliament debates the final draft of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States one of the key revisions which has quelled some (though not all) discontent with the deal was to remove a clause which explicitly left open the possibility of keeping US forces in the nation beyond 2011. The SOFA just covers the rules of US troops operating in Iraq from 2009-2011, and even without the clause nothing would prevent a future deal keeping the troops there past the scope of the SOFA, but somehow removing the clause made the date seem more firm.

At least that’s the Iraqi perspective. White House press secretary Dana Perino is still describing the so-called firm timeline as “aspirational dates,” while Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen said a 2011 US pullout would be “conditions-based,” while conceding that “conditions could change in that period of time.”

The timeline in the SOFA says that US troops are to withdraw from villages no later than June 30, 2009 and troops are to be out by December 31, 2011. The US is reportedly already working on accomplishing the first of those terms. It seems the later, despite many Iraqis’ hopes of finality, is still up in the air.

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