US military chafes under Iraq Withdrawal Agreement

Oh, pity the retreating hegemon– just for a fleeting second– as it starts to realize the implications of the drawdown of ts forces from Iraq, in compliance with the Withdrawal Agreement (PDF) concluded last November.
The WaPo’s Ernesto Londono and Karen De Young reported from Baghdad today that on July 2, two days after the deadline for the withdrawal of US forces from all the cities of Iraq,

    Iraq’s top commanders told their U.S. counterparts to “stop all joint patrols” in Baghdad. It said U.S. resupply convoys could travel only at night and ordered the Americans to “notify us immediately of any violations of the agreement.”
    … U.S. commanders have described the pullout from cities as a transition from combat to stability operations. But they have kept several combat battalions assigned to urban areas and hoped those troops would remain deeply engaged in training Iraqi security forces, meeting with paid informants, attending local council meetings and supervising U.S.-funded civic and reconstruction projects.
    … The Americans have been taken aback by the new restrictions on their activities. The Iraqi order runs “contrary to the spirit and practice of our last several months of operations,” Maj. Gen. Daniel P. Bolger, commander of the Baghdad division, wrote in an e-mail obtained by The Washington Post.
    “Maybe something was ‘lost in translation,’ ” Bolger wrote. “We are not going to hide our support role in the city. I’m sorry the Iraqi politicians lied/dissembled/spun, but we are not invisible nor should we be.” He said U.S. troops intend to engage in combat operations in urban areas to avert or respond to threats, with or without help from the Iraqis.

Hullo?! Earth to Gen. Bolger! Why did he think it would somehow be “okay” to keep “several combat battalions assigned to urban areas”?
Maybe he should go and read the text of the Withdrawal Agreement, as duly concluded between his (and my) government and the Government of Iraq last November.
The WA states, Article 24, clauses 1 and 2:

    1. All the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.
    2. All United States combat forces shall withdraw from Iraqi cities, villages, and localities no later than the time at which Iraqi Security Forces assume full responsibility for security in an Iraqi province, provided that such withdrawal is completed no later than June 30, 2009.

And in Article 4, clauses 1, 2, and 3:

    1. The Government of Iraq requests the temporary assistance of the United States Forces for the purposes of supporting Iraq in its efforts to maintain security and stability in Iraq, including cooperation in the conduct of operations against Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups, outlaw groups, and remnants of the former regime.
    2. All such military operations that are carried out pursuant to this Agreement shall be conducted with the agreement of the Government of Iraq. Such operations shall be fully coordinated with the Iraqi authorities
    3. All such operations shall be conducted with full respect for the Iraqi Constitution and the laws of Iraq. Execution of such operations shall not infringe upon the sovereignty of Iraq and its nation interests, as defined by the Government of Iraq. It is the duty of the United States Forces to respect the laws, customs, and traditions of Iraq and applicable international law.

So it really is small wonder that the combat battalions Bolger had kept deployed– and also quite frequently employed– inside Baghdad and other cities since June 30 have been running into a lot of opposition from the Iraqi forces, and perhaps also from some para-military formations operating with the knowledge of the Baghdad government.
For example, as the waPo writers note, on Thursday night there was a mysteriously sourced “rocket strike on a U.S. base in Basra on Thursday night that killed three soldiers. ”
But why were those US soldiers still inside Basra at all?
Bolger says that the US forces inside urban areas have been engaging in operations to “to avert or respond to threats, with or without help from the Iraqis”?
Threats to whom? Threats to themselves and their own– at this point illegal– presence inside the cities, it seems.
Just get the heck out of the cities, Gen. Bolger! That is what our government agreed with the Iraqi government would happen.
But thus far, it apparently hasn’t. So it is the US forces that have been contravening the terms of the WA. And no amount of “spinning/lying/dissembling” on Gen. Bolger’s behalf can change that.
It is not clear to whom Bolger sent the reported email. But evidently he was venting some of his frustrations there:

    “Our [Iraqi] partners burn our fuel, drive roads cleared by our Engineers, live in bases built with our money, operate vehicles fixed with our parts, eat food paid for by our contracts, watch our [surveillance] video feeds, serve citizens with our [funds], and benefit from our air cover,” Bolger noted in the e-mail.

Poor cry-baby. He imagines the Iraqi people should be grateful that the US military marched in and smashed up their country?
Here’s another reading assignment for him:
Article 5 of the Withdrawal Agreement, “Property Ownership”:

    1. Iraq owns all buildings, non-relocatable structures, and assemblies connected to the soil that exist on agreed facilities and areas, including those that are used, constructed, atered, or improved by the United States Forces.
    2. Upon their withdrawal, the United States Forces shall return to the Government of Iraq all the facilities and areas provided fro the use of the combat forces of the United States…

Just get out, Gen. Bolger. Stop chasing phantoms and your own tail there. I am sure that once the Iraqi people and their government see you exiting the cities fully as per the WA, and complying with all its other terms, they will be happy to leave you alone.
The WA and international law demand that you withdraw from the cities, and only come back in with the explicit agreement of the Iraqi government. And guess what, the US public and Congress are in strong support of the WA.
(I’ll just note parenthetically here that the WaPo piece is also larded with allegations from un-named US officials that, under Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki’s rapidly expanding sovereignty, all kinds of Iranian-backed splinter groups– with pathetically mis-transliterated names– are now active in Iraq and striking at US targets. That’s what I mean by chasing phantoms… )

7 thoughts on “US military chafes under Iraq Withdrawal Agreement”

  1. I don’t suppose for a moment that the US forces have completely conformed to the withdrawal agreement. The military resistance, is, as you say, strong.
    This is essentially a conflict between Washington, as represented by Obama, and the military in Iraq, who don’t want to be seen as defeated.
    I had thought the battle won, by Obama. But it is clear that there are after-effects, US commanders like Bolger, who are not willing to accept Washington’s decision.

  2. The point is: will Obama accept Bolger’s decision? One presumes that the Secretary of Defence has.

  3. Alex, with tons of respect, I think you are giving Obama far too much credit. Even during the campaign Obama’s position was never that he would end the occupation. His intention was always to keep a “risidual” force of indeterminate size in place indefinitely. I don’t think there is any real conflict going on between the Commander in Chief and the military. If there is actual evidence that there is, then I am happy to look at it, but I think the reconfiguring of the occupation is happening more or less as intended.

  4. Why are you surprised that the condominium is repudiating what’s after all only “on paper”?
    They canceled the Iraqi referendum that was the condition that allowed them to sign their paper to begin with, and all of you in the MSM have obediently not mentioned the fact.
    This is Barack We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Badges Bush III Obama we’re talking about.
    Does he have personally to spit in your face, or push you down the stairs, before you recognize reality?

  5. Actually, Shirin, I’ve shifted my position over time, to take account of your point that the US will only leave Iraq when forced to. It is true, I think. That is what is happening now. It is, of course, not military force, but refusal of the Iraqi people to accept the US, and other issues.
    The main point at issue here is the idea of the omnipotence of the US, which you do in fact subscribe to, although you detest the actions. No different JFLee further down. When you live in the US, as I saw during my three months in California this spring, it is very hard to see the limits of US power. People blab about the decline of American empire in the blogs, but it’s only a theoretical discourse. We poor old Europeans can see things more clearly. I wouldn’t say decline myself, but there are limits.
    The reason that there is a difference between Obama and the generals is that the generals are typically blind to anything outside their own sector, and of course believe implicitly in American omnipotence.
    Whatever one thinks of Obama, he is forced to have a wider vision than the generals, and certainly than the Baghdad division commander, and he wants his war in Afghanistan.
    My impression of Obama is that he’s given up on Iraq. He thinks that it was a mistake, and he’s trying to get out of the involvement while still maintaining US interests (including military ones).
    Actually all Maliki has to do is to continue the present policy, and sooner or later the US will be out.
    Bolger was speaking out of turn. But there’s also a question of the story the journalists themselves were looking to prove. They want there to be proof that the US is not out of the cities. But we don’t really know. I’d like to see what the objective evidence is. It would be a service to Iraq if a journalist could do it. I’m sure that if it were shown that US troops were still in the cities in any significant way, the reaction in the Iraqi parliament would be massive.

  6. Actually I only just got round to reading the WaPo article (the link was broken, and believe it or not, I don’t read the WaPo every day).
    It seemed to me that the “chafing” of the US military was not the main point but rather the surprise that the Iraqis are actually enforcing the agreement.
    It’s always been obvious that the US military think the Iraqis are a bunch of numbskulls and a joke, and can’t understand in any way why it is that the US signed the withdrawal/SOFA agreement. Bolger is typical.
    It just shows the limits of military comprehension. I don’t think there’s necessarily any evidence of higher approval.
    What that article shows, and more recent events support, such as Iraqi security control of the pilgrimage to Kadhimiyya yesterday, is how intensely important to Iraq keeping to the agreement is. If indeed the US is out to trick, there is going to be massive disappointment. Maliki will have been right all along, that the US has to make a choice between permanent forced occupation with a large garrison, and leaving.

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