Today, the President publicly announced that United States troops will finish a complete withdrawal from Iraq by the end of the year. President Obama began his speech referencing his campaign promise to end the Iraq War. Obama stated that the Iraqi Prime Minister and himself are in “full agreement on how to move forward.” Despite growing sentiment against the Iraq War, many analysts were surprised that the President decided to go through with complete withdrawal. He announced that all troops will be withdraw by the end of the year, December 31st, 2011. The President said the troops “will definitely be home for the holidays.”
Watch the President’s official announcement:
The war in Iraq has lasted nearly nine years. As of January 1st, Iraq will act as a sovereign nation, following the U.S.’s Strategic Framework Agreement with Iraq. The President stressed that while the U.S. would maintain relations and involvement with Iraq, Iraq is a sovereign country no different than any other. He stated that the United States would continue to offer support and training to Iraq, “as we would any other country.” President Obama also noted that the troop withdrawal in Afghanistan will continue to decrease, and that we need to begin building our nation at home.
The Strategic Framework Agreement, mentioned in the video above, is intended to protect various minorities, ensure constitutional rights, promote education, and ensure cooperation in “energy development, environmental hygiene, health care, information technology, communications, and law enforcement (Wikipedia).” Some Iraqi groups, as well as U.S. citizens, are concerned that the Strategic Framework Agreement may be used by the U.S. to maintain more subtle occupation of parts of Iraq or as a means for the U.S. to exercise illegitimate power over the country.
The President failed to mention it directly, but the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement required U.S. force withdraw from all Iraqi cities by June 30th, 2009, and all other forces by December 31st, 2011. Make no mistake – it is great news that our troops in Iraq are finally coming home. It is certainly long overdue. It should be noted, however, that this is not a tactical decision on Obama’s part, but is more so a required withdrawal, outlined in the Status of Forces Agreement, signed by George W. Bush in 2008. Without the signing of the Status of Forces Agreement, it would be plausible that the United States would continue to occupy Iraq indefinitely.
Whether a “continued interest” in Iraq or the provisions in the Strategic Framework Agreement will allow the U.S. government to continue with military involvement, or demonstrations of hard power, remains to be seen.