With Ambassador to Iraq James Jeffrey warning that al-Qaeda in Iraq is “resurgent” and the current US commander General Lloyd Austin warning that the “threats to Iraq’s stability will remain in 2012,” officials are increasingly suggesting the 50,000 US troops will remain beyond 2011.
Which goes against the official position of the administration, that every last soldier will be out of Iraq by the end of December as per the Status of Forces Agreement. Given the Obama Administration’s penchant for false promises and abortive “ends” to the Iraq War, it’s perhaps no surprise that even the SOFA deadline is at risk.
But the SOFA deadline isn’t just an American contrivance, it is coded into the agreement and would need Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s approval to amend. This may be only a minor problem for Maliki, who despite promises to the contrary seems extremely comfortable with the US occupation as a backstop for his continued rule.
But US officials are warning Maliki that he’d better ask “sooner rather than later” or the US might already have those troops committed elsewhere, and Maliki’s government partners, notably the Moqtada al-Sadr led Iraqi National Alliance, are vehemently opposed to the US military presence and would likely turn such an extension into a major political and possibly security crisis.