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Obama Seems to Embrace U.S.-Iraq Deal; All Troops Home in 2011?

Something else that’s interesting in Joe Klein’s interview with Sen. Barack Obama.

Yesterday we saw John McCain severely misrepresent what the impending U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) says, incorrectly insisting that its date-certain deadlines for U.S. troop withdrawals are based on “conditions” on the ground. Here Klein asks Obama to revisit his 2007 questions to Gen. David Petraeus about whether conditions in Iraq are good enough to merit withdrawal. His answer appears to entail something big:

[OBAMA] I don’t think it’s quite good enough yet because I think we have to do a little more training. We’ve got to build up the logistical capacity. I think the possibilities of ethnic strife breaking out again are still present, precisely because the political system has not stabilized itself yet. But I do believe that we are at a point now where we can start drawing down troops. I think we can time a process where the drawing down of troops [IS] parallel to building up the capacity in Iraq and the SOFA agreement that…was just put forward I think reflects that reality.

That sounds like he’s on board with the 2011 deadline for total withdrawal. Obama’s campaign proposal is, of course, to withdraw combat forces by mid-2010. He’s long advocated a residual force for the purposes of (mostly) training the Iraqi security forces. But if he’s on board with the SOFA, then we’re out — all out, adviser/trainer forces and everything — by Dec. 31, 2011. There’s a provision in Article 25 section 5 of the SOFA allowing the Iraqi government “to ask the U.S. government to keep specific forces for the purposes of training and support of the Iraqi security forces” if 2011 is too soon to stop the training mission, but that would require another “special agreement” negotiation with the Iraqis on a new deadline. If Obama is, in fact, embracing the SOFA, then for the first time from him we’d get a deadline for complete, not partial, withdrawal from Iraq.

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