A member of Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement (INM) told Iraq’s AK News that at the beginning of 2010 Prime Minister Maliki asked the cabinet to extend the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the United States. The INM official said that the cabinet rejected the proposal, telling the premier that only the parliament had that power. The request came just before the March 2010 election so the legislature didn’t make any moves on the agreement either.
The SOFA says that all U.S. troops have to leave Iraq by the end of 2011, but it’s widely believed that attempts will be made to amend it. The main reason is that Iraq will not be able to defend itself from other countries by the 2011 deadline. The chief of staff of the Iraqi military General Babaker Zebari as well as the U.S. commander General Ray Odierno have both suggested that U.S. forces stay until 2020, which is the date the Defense Ministry has set for Iraq’s security forces to have the equipment necessary for national defense. The major impediment to that happening is the fact that neither Washington nor Baghdad has prepared their publics or legislatures for an extended American stay in Iraq. It will be hard for a SOFA extension to be passed in Iraq if the Sadrists have a prominent role in any new government because of their anti-U.S. views. The idea may be no more popular in Congress where there are already politicians trying to cut funding for the State Department’s expanded role in Iraq as U.S. troops pull out. Changing the agreement then, will likely be the next major struggle in the relations between the two countries.
AK News, “Al-Iraqiya: Ministers council refused Maliki’s request to extend presence of U.S. forces,” 8/30/10
DeYoung, Karen and Londono, Ernesto, “State Dept. faces skyrocketing costs as it prepares to expand role in Iraq,” Washington Post, 8/11/10
Meek, James Gordon, “Gen. Odierno warns troops may stay in Iraq well beyond Obama's 2011 withdrawal target,” New York Daily News, 8/22/10