More Revolt Of The Generals
The most significant part of President Obama's Iraq speech was that this was the first time, I guess, that he has specifically agreed to abide by the bilateral status of forces agreement.
But full withdrawal will follow within 18 months of the combat-brigades' departure. For the first time as president, Obama attempted to resolve ambiguities about a full withdrawal along the Dec. 2011 framework that the Iraqi government insisted upon in last year's Status of Forces Agreement, committing himself to its mechanisms. Some on the left have wondered warily why Obama hadn't made such a public commitment. Those worries will probably end with this line:
"Under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned."
As Chris Bowers notes, breaking this agreement would mean extending the occupation into 2012, in an election year, at which point the antiwar movement would have good reason to howl in protest. The Iraqis secured a hard withdrawal date, the timing of which compels the President to stick with it.
However, NBC's Jim Miklaszeswki reported before the Obama speech that the Pentagon would prefer to break this agreement and continue the occupation (h/t).
Miklaszeswki: Secretary Gates, as early as 18 months to 2 years ago, was saying "look, everyone understands that we're going to have to start withdrawing from Iraq." But at the same time, Gates adds this caveat that he believes significant numbers of troops will remain in Iraq for years to come.
And in fact military commanders, despite this Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government that all US forces would be out by the end of 2011, are already making plans for a significant number of American troops to remain in Iraq beyond that 2011 deadline, assuming that Status of Forces Agreement agreement would be renegotiated.
And one senior military commander told us that he expects large numbers of American troops to be in Iraq for the next 15 to 20 years, David.
Gregory: 15 to 20 years, I think that takes a moment to really sink in. With a mission that is primarily what over that kind of time horizon, Mik?
Miklaszeswki: Again it would evolve from a day-to-day combat mission, to more of an oversight mission. We mustn't forget the US is providing nearly 100% of all combat air support over Iraq, and the Iraqi military is not going to be ready to assume that mission within the next 18 months to 2 years, it's going to be impossible.
And there are some discussions, I know Richard Engel mentioned the area of Kirkuk up in the north recently, there are some discussions among Iraqis and I know some military commanders to establish what could end up as a permanent air base, US air base, in Kirkuk.
The military commanders already mau-mau'ed their way into a three-month extension of the withdrawal of combat troops. Adding 15-20 years of troop deployments to Iraq would mean that babies born during the war would be spending tours of duty there. If they continue in violation of the bilateral agreement, they will be nothing but targets.
It seems to me that the commanders pushing this may not have much of a problem with the President taking political heat in 2012 for the decision. The officer class doesn't cotton to taking orders from Democrats, anyway. Watch for this move to undermine him over the next couple years.