When the Maliki government was selling the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) to the Iraqi parliament, he presented the 2011 deadline as carved in stone, declaring “United States forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than Dec. 31, 2011.” They also had clauses removed from earlier drafts which left open the possibility of an extension.
The Bush Administration, by contrast, claimed the 2011 pullout was merely an “aspirational date.” Though the Maliki government denied this at the time, it seems they are finally owning up to the reality with Prime Minister Maliki today declaring that the pact could be “reconsidered” in 2011.
“If the Iraqi forces require further training and further support, we shall examine this then at that time, based on the needs of Iraq,” Maliki insists. Iraqi officials and the Obama government have both insisted that the pullout is actually on schedule at the moment.
Yet only a few thousand US troops have left Iraq since President Obama took office, and few if any are expected to go through the beginning of next year. This certainly leaves doubts as to the president’s willingness to actually withdraw troops from the nation in a timely fashion, and Maliki seems like he may be willing to oblige a long-term stay.