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U.S. Forces May Stay in Mosul Past June, But Are They Asking or Telling?

Much as Gen. Raymond Odierno recently said, here’s Col. Gary Volesky, commander of the U.S. brigade combat team in Mosul:

Q Hi, sir. This is Daphne Benoit with Agence France-Presse. Given the recent acts of violence in the Mosul region, are you still confident that you’re going to be able to leave the city by end of June as planned? And are you concerned it might actually worsen the situation?

COL. VOLESKY: The 30 June date that’s — that’s out there, we are conducting an assessment right now with our Iraqi counterparts to determine what the way ahead is for security in Mosul.

And based on that assessment, a decision will be made what we will do on 30 June. If the Iraqi government believes we should stay in Mosul to continue the security progress, we’ll support our Iraqi counterparts past 30 June and continue to build on the momentum that we’ve got here. If we’re — if the decisions made that we leave, then we’ll go into the Nineveh province at large and continue supporting Iraqi security forces.

But again that, in my assessment, will all be made based on the combined assessment that is currently being collected right now.

I wasn’t at this briefing, so I can’t speak to its nuances. But it’s a little hard to believe that Volesky and Odierno would float the possibility of staying in Mosul past June 30 — the deadline set by the Status of Forces Agreement for U.S. combat forces to vacate Iraqi cities — unless (a) the decision’s already been made, or (b) they’re trying to publicly pressure the Iraqis into acquiescing. I have no information here, and my speculation could be off. But the line on Mosul is starting to get conspicuous. Now, furthermore, maybe staying in Mosul past June 30 is the right thing, security-wise. I’ve had a weird sentimental attachment to much-suffering Mosul since visiting in March 2007. But it’s also right and good and wise to respect the withdrawal dates that the U.S. and Iraqi governments negotiated.

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