[R-G] Dec. 31, 2011: "Date Goal" for US Withdrawal from Iraq
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Sat Oct 18 10:26:08 MDT 2008
October 18, 2008
U.S. in Firmer Commitment to Iraq Pullout Date
By THOM SHANKER and STEVEN LEE MYERS
WASHINGTON — A sweeping accord between Iraq and the United States
would set the end of 2011 as a concrete date for American withdrawal
from Iraq, based on the performance and increasing capacity of the
Iraqi security forces, according to a draft of the agreement.
The accord, which the Bush administration has been detailing in a
series of briefings for lawmakers and their staffs, reflects several
concessions to the Iraqi government. It lists specific dates for
American forces to first move out of cities and then to leave Iraq,
instead of the vague "aspirational" timelines for reductions of
American forces that had been pressed by the Bush administration.
But while giving specific dates, the draft does state that these "date
goals" could be changed by mutual agreement, and might be accelerated
or delayed depending on the ability of the Iraqis to take over the
security mission and on "the conditions."
In a significant breakthrough after months of halting negotiations,
the agreement would make private American security companies and other
contractors subject to Iraqi justice in criminal cases.
By contrast, American military personnel would be guaranteed immunity
from Iraqi law, except in cases of serious or premeditated felonies
committed outside their official duties. The United States had pressed
for full immunity from Iraqi law for all American troops, while the
Iraqis had demanded legal jurisdiction on their territory.
The status of forces agreement has been the subject of intense,
complicated negotiations for months, and the Bush administration wants
it to be the seal on its war effort in Iraq, providing a basis for a
long-term, stable relationship with the new government in Baghdad. The
United Nations Security Council resolution that authorizes the
American-led mission in Iraq expires Dec. 31.
The administration's negotiators appear to have bowed to Iraqi
political sensitivities in ways that would have been unimaginable only
months ago — so much so that some members of Congress immediately
raised questions about whether President Bush had gone too far.
"It's critical that our dedicated men and women in uniform serving in
Iraq have full legal protections and are not subject to criminal
prosecution in an Iraqi judicial system that does not meet due process
standards," said Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, chairman of
the Senate Armed Services Committee. "I intend to reserve judgment as
to whether the proposed agreement includes safeguards adequate to meet
this standard until I have an opportunity for a more complete review."
The Iraqi leadership has been torn between demands from the United
States as the price of continued operations essential to stability,
and resentment felt across the population about the large and
continued American presence on sovereign Iraqi soil.
Administration officials cautioned that while negotiators had finished
their work, the draft accord still might be subject to changes as it
moved through a ponderous process of final ratification by the Iraqis.
Yet in a clear sign that the Bush administration believes that an
agreement is all but completed, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have briefed Congressional
leaders on the deal. Congressional staff members were called to the
West Wing of the White House on Friday morning for a video
teleconference from Baghdad that included Ryan C. Crocker, the
American ambassador to Iraq; Gen. Ray Odierno, the commander of United
States and allied forces in Iraq; David M. Satterfield from the State
Department; and Brett H. McGurk of the National Security Council.
During a Pentagon news conference on Friday, Mr. Gates said "there is
no reason to be concerned" by the agreement's definition of legal
guarantees for American troops. He said he and the senior military
leadership "are all satisfied that our men and women in uniform
serving in Iraq are well protected."
According to drafts of the agreement, United States forces would first
withdraw from Iraqi cities and villages and move to bases no later
than June 30, 2009, and those troop movements could occur even sooner
should "Iraqi security forces assume responsibility for security in
The text of the agreement states emphatically that "United States
forces shall withdraw from Iraqi territory no later than Dec. 31,
2011," although both nations agreed that some American troops could
remain after that date by mutual agreement.
A copy of the draft agreement was provided by an American official,
and its contents were confirmed by other senior officials who also had
copies of the text. All agreed to discuss the matter on the condition
of anonymity before the announcement of a final agreement.
The accord reads like traditional status of forces agreements that set
the rules for the American military on foreign soil, and is similar to
many negotiated by the executive branch: it carries no language that
pledges a long-term commitment by the United States to the defense of
Iraq. Such language might rise to the level of a mutual security
treaty and require Senate approval, according to some Congressional
leaders. A separate security framework has already been the subject of
Senior administration officials said that American negotiators bowed
to Iraqi anger over civilian deaths in shootings by private security
contractors, and agreed to language that states, "Iraq shall have the
primary right to exercise jurisdiction over United States contractors
and United States contractor employees."
Any American military personnel, including Defense Department civilian
personnel, who are arrested or detained by the Iraqis would be handed
over to American authorities, even in cases where Iraq asserts
jurisdiction for premeditated felonies.
But the United States would pledge to make those accused personnel
available to the Iraqi authorities for investigation and trial,
similar to tenets of status of forces agreements the Pentagon has with
Japan and South Korea. The primitive level of the Iraqi justice system
has worried some in Congress.
As months of negotiations neared completion over recent days, the
language defining legal jurisdiction over American military personnel
was devised to reassure Iraqis that they might claim the right to
prosecute those who commit "grave, premeditated felonies" outside what
is termed official "duty status."
But it is left to the American military to "certify whether an alleged
offense arose during duty status," according to the text. Disputes
between Iraqis and Americans over duty status would be decided by a
joint committee on jurisdiction.
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