As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

No, You Have To Leave Now

The US commanders in Iraq have always wanted to fudge one of the early details of the status of forces agreement. They were comfortable with leaving on schedule and removing combat troops on time, but they sought to keep troops inside major Iraqi cities, a key element of the surge, beyond the June 30 deadline. The Iraqis have other ideas.

Iraq's government Monday ruled out allowing U.S. combat troops to remain in Iraqi cities after the June 30 deadline for their withdrawal, despite concern that Iraqi forces cannot cope with the security challenge following a recent resurgence of bombings.

Asking U.S. forces to stay in the cities, including volatile Mosul in the north, would be embarrassing for Iraq's prime minister, who has staked his political future on claims that the country has turned the corner in the war against Sunni and Shiite extremists.

The departure of heavily armed combat troops from bases inside the cities is important psychologically to many Iraqis, who are eager to regain control of their country after six years of war and U.S. military occupation.

U.S. officials played down the Iraqi decision, with Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman saying it's up to the Iraqi government to request an extension of the U.S. presence in the cities and "we intend to fully abide by" terms of the security agreement.

This actually makes me more assured than ever that Iraq will stand on its own feet in a post-American landscape. The Maliki government wants to remove US forces from the cities, essentially, due to public pressure. That pressure will also force the long-overdue political solutions which still lack between the government and the Sunni Awakening forces. For too long our troops have been the crutch that Maliki falls back on to enforce his increasingly autocratic rule. He probably thinks that his own forces are now sufficient to do the job. But he shows constraints from the public in holding to the deadline to remove Americans from the major cities, which in many ways is the fundamental tenet of democracy. I'm rarely hopeful about Iraq, but this is an exception.

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