While US officials have continued to insist that the timetable for removing troops from Iraq remains in place, a growing trend of violence and a delay to Iraq’s national parliamentary elections has led to considerable speculation that the US won’t ultimately abide by the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) deadline to have troops out of the nation by the end of 2011.
That speculation seemed well-founded today, when Army Chief of Staff General George Casey said that the world “remains dangerous and unpredictable” and that his planning envisions leaving combat troops in Iraq for another decade “to fight extremism and terrorism.”
Gen. Casey’s planning was focused on troop rotations, and he emphasized that he wasn’t responsible for making decisions about policy, but that he believed the US would need to be ready for “sustained” wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in which he saw a similar timeline.
During the campaign President Obama promised to have all troops out of Iraq within 16 months, though he abandoned that policy just days after taking office. His current policy is to declare an end to “combat” in August 2010, but to keep troops in the nation engaged in combat operations for an indefinite period past that. He has insisted that he still intends to abide by the SOFA deadline, however.