Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Mohammed al-Askari says that despite the rising violence across the nation, US forces will have to leave Iraq’s cities by the June 30 deadline dictated by the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the two nations.
Earlier this month, top US commander General Ray Odierno said that the United States might decide to “ignore” the deadline and remain in some cities beyond the date. Nineveh Commander Col. Gary Volesky pointed to Mosul as a likely city where the US forces would remain.
Maj. Gen. Askari did leave an obvious out, however, saying that the troops could return to the cities after their withdrawal, but “only with permission from the Iraqi government.” Last month, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said that US troops would only be able to leave areas with the explicit permission of the Iraqi government, and then only in cases when they were 100 percent secured. The newfound eagerness to see them leave the cities may be tied to Iraqi outrage over a US raid in the city of Kut yesterday morning, which Maliki called a criminal violation of the SOFA.