It appears that there will be a residual American military presence in Iraqi cities after the June 30th, 2009 "deadline." Or, at least, that is the expectation from the American military commander:
Despite a summer deadline to pull American combat troops from Iraqi cities, thousands will remain to support and train Iraqi forces, the top U.S. commander in Iraq confirmed on Saturday.
Gen. Ray Odierno said he expects troops operating alongside the Iraqis will remain "after the summer" in urban centres in joint security operations.
In case you were wondering if this was a violation of the status of forces agreement, or of Iraqi sovereignty, General Odierno offers this clarification of the June 30th date (emphasis mine):
"We are, I believe, in terms of the American commitment, in the end game. The June 30 date was the date we gave them, not vice versa," he said.
Fine. Whatever. The June 30th withdrawal from Iraqi cities was nice, but it was never the reason why I was originally excited about the status of forces agreement. I can live with a "residual" American military presence in Iraqi cities after June 30th, but the big enchilada is the aspect of the agreement that argues no residual troop presence in all of Iraq after December 21st, 2011. That part of the deal still seems to be on, although there are those who want to re-negotiate:
A security pact with the Iraqi government, which will be put to a referendum next year, stipulates the Americans will be out of cities and towns by June, and out of the country by 2011.
Earlier in the week, an Iraqi government spokesman said the Baghdad government would be open to negotiations that would keep troops in Iraq past the agreed upon withdrawal date.
Ali al-Dabbagh, on a visit to Washington, said Iraqi security forces might need 10 years to get ready to take over from U.S. troops.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office said in a written statement Saturday that al-Dabbagh was expressing only an opinion that did not represent government policy.
December 31st, 2011 still appears to be a hard deadline for no residual forces under the current status of forces agreement. The question is whether the desire on the part of some elements of the American and Iraqi government to extend that deadline and / or allow for residual forces will overcome what appears to be broad desire for no residual American military presence in Iraq. Hopefully, the deadline will hold, but our best chance for that happening involves political players and political parties in Iraq that are quite out of the influence of American grassroots progressives.