Draft Pact Says U.S. Forces Would Leave Iraq in 2011

The pact replaces a U.N. mandate enacted after the U.S. invasion in 2003 that gives legal authority for U.S. troops to be in the Middle Eastern country. The U.N. mandate expires Dec. 31.

The pact now goes to Iraqi political leaders for approval, the first step toward ratifying it in the Iraqi parliament, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Wednesday, according to Reuters.

But State Department spokesman Sean McCormack sounded a cautionary note: “Nothing is done until everything is done. Everything isn’t done. The Iraqis are still talking among themselves. We are still talking to the Iraqis.”

A senior U.S. official in Washington, who asked not to be named, confirmed that the deal would require U.S. troops to leave by 2011 unless Iraq asked them to stay longer, Reuters reported.

The Bush administration has long resisted committing to a timetable for withdrawing troops for fear that it would embolden insurgents. But in July, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed to work toward setting a “time horizon” for reducing U.S. troops as part of a broader security agreement.

The draft also would give the Iraqis a greater role in U.S. military operations and full control of the Green Zone, a 3 1/2-square mile area of central Baghdad that includes the U.S. Embassy and major Iraqi government offices, the Associated Press reported.

One of the major sticking points was who would try American soldiers and Pentagon contractors for offenses such as the killing of Iraqi civilians.

U.S. negotiators had sought exclusive jurisdiction over all soldiers and contractors, but Iraq insisted on a role to convince the public that Iraqis, and not Americans, were in charge of their country, according to the AP.

Several unnamed Iraqi officials familiar with the draft said the compromise would give the United States the primary right to try troops and Pentagon contractors for alleged offenses committed on American bases or during military operations.

But Iraq would have the first chance at trying U.S. military personnel and contractors for major, premeditated crimes allegedly committed outside American bases and when they are not on authorized missions, the officials said, reported the AP.