In yet another sign that the Obama Administration’s “pullout” timeline for Iraq is not set in stone, General Ray Odierno told The Times today that US combat troops may remain in Iraq’s cities beyond the June 30 deadline mandated by the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). He pointed to increased trouble from al-Qaeda as the justification.
From some of its earliest leaked drafts the SOFA mandated that all US troops would be out of cities by the end of June, 2009. Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin has previously said he thought the deadline was unlikely to be met, but this appears to be the first time the top commander in Iraq has publicly acknowledged that things are not going according to schedule.
In February, the Obama Administration revealed its new drawdown strategy, which planned to declare an official end to combat operations in August of 2010 (though up to 50,000 troops would remain, and continue to engage in combat). That already dramatically scaled back timeline, however, seems to have been predicated on a best-case scenario from a military perspective, and a delay in June could well mean a deal in August.