Last Updated 5/8 11:35 PM EST
Top US Commander in Iraq General Ray Odierno was decidedly non-committal today on the question of how many US troops would remain in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and the capital of Baghdad by June 30, as required by the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the Iraqi government.
“There is potential that they can handle the mission starting 1 July,” Odierno said of the possibility of Iraqi forces taking over operations in Mosul as per the agreement. At the same time, he seemed willing to confirm that troops would remain, and seemed irked at people who were waiting for the long-promised US victory over the insurgents, declaring “it’s not going to end, OK? There’ll always be some sort of low-level insurgency in Iraq for the next 5, 10, 15 years.”
The Iraqi government has repeatedly ruled out the US remaining in cities beyond June 30, but the United States has challenged that decision, and Gen. Odierno previously said the US might just choose to ignore the deadline, and it seems they will do exactly that.
Violence across Iraq has been on the rise for the past two months, particularly in Baghdad, but while US officials have dismissed that as an aberration, Mosul has steadily been a hotbed of violence for the past several years. The real question is unlikely to be whether an extra 45 days will turn the situation around – rather it is if the deadline turns into another point of dispute between the US and the Maliki government.