With just over eight months left before the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) mandate for Iraq runs out, Pentagon officials are openly questioning the pledge to leave Iraq by December.
The official explanation now is that they believe a “power vacuum” would emerge in the absence of thousands of US soldiers continuing to occupy the nation. Officials say the exact size of the force depends on what they can talk the Iraqi government into.
The tone is a significant shift in rhetoric from August, when officials were hyping the exit of the “last combat troops” from Iraq and vowing to end the war within the timeframe of the SOFA. As with the other wars the administration is fighting, the deadline appears to be less appealing to the Pentagon the closer it gets.
But a three day weekend of major protests and threats of armed resistance by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr must surely be giving officials at least some pause in their eagerness to continue the war. With his political clout, it will be difficult for the Iraqi government to overrule him in approving the continued war.