Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sitting on the SOFA

First, the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) is now called the Security Agreement (SA). I like SOFA better because it makes the journal title more ironic.

Second, we still do not know how the SOFA is going to affect our every day mission here in Iraq; at least not yet. We cannot talk about it to the press, which is good because all I know about it came from Fox News and since they seem to know more than we do, maybe I could ask them.

The basics are pretty straight forward. All US forces out of the cities by June of 2009 and out of the country by 2011. We will coordinate operations with Iraq Security Forces. We will turn over detainees or have to show a burden of proof to keep them in detention. These are the biggies within the entire agreement. Since the agreement was made by the US administration and the Iraqi administration I’m that its simple and easy to understand.

And it’s in the broad definitions of the words “cities” and “out of” and “operations” that the SOFA gets interesting. What defines a city in Iraq? Is it by population? Square miles? Historical boundaries? My FOB is nowhere near a city. But what about a base on the outskirts of al Hilla, or Karbala, or Baghdad? Baghdad! We’re going to leave (out of) the IZ? Leave (out of) the bases near Sadr City in the Shi’a slums of Baghdad? If it means giving the mission of security over to the Iraqis then I am all for it and wish them luck.

Thank goodness we have lawyers to sort this entire mess out! You know that the war has changed dramatically when we look to the lawyers for guidance with the day to day stuff. Our military lawyers at the highest levels are deciphering the legal implications of the SOFA. In a few weeks (because that’s all they have) they will let us know how our relationship with Iraq has changed.

I'm not worried. We will always have the right to defend ourselves. And no, I don’t think we’ll be taking orders from the ISF any time soon. In the end, the level of coordination that will come from the SOFA will only serve to get us extricated from Iraq easier rather than harder. We’d rather wave good-bye than shoot our way out.

The bottom line is that this is the mark on the calendar no one wanted to make for the past four or five years. We are leaving Iraq and barring a catastrophic incident with any one of Iraq’s neighbors, that’s not going to change. The SOFA is the beginning of the end.

However, until the SOFA turns into the SA, we’ll be sitting and waiting.

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