Thanksgiving seemed truly a day to be thankful this year, with the Iraqi parliament agreeing to a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States that was to end set a firm timeline to end the war. The firmness of this timeline was presented as a key component of the draft, and the Iraqi government made much of demanding the removal of a paragraph about keeping US troops in the nation beyond 2011.
The change was likely key to securing the SOFA’s narrow victory in parliament: even the Iranian government spoke out in support of the deal after that. But even before the vote it was pointed out that the two nations could circumvent the “firm” pullout date through a future deal. It was just raised as a possibility then: the Iraqi government seems to view it as a virtual certainty.
At a Pentagon press briefing, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh conceded “the Iraqi military is not going to get built out in the three years. We do need many more years. It might be 10 years.” One can’t help but wonder how well the contentious parliament vote would have gone if the Maliki government had been forthcoming with this view of the firm timeline.
The Bush Administration had been calling the timeline “aspirational” all along, and military officials still concede a lot of work remains before the Iraqi forces are “ready” for a US pullout. Exactly when that readiness happens is not readily apparent, and according to Dabbagh will be left up to the Iraqi government of 2011 to determine.