August 22, 2008

U.S., Iraq Agree on Target Pullout Date

U.S. and Iraqi negotiators agreed to the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces by the end of 2011 and are nearing resolution of other issues, Iraqi officials said.

Among the outstanding issues is whether U.S. military personnel would be subject to Iraqi law if accused of committing crimes, The Washington Post reported Friday.

"We have a text," Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit Thursday to Baghdad.

Both governments must complete and approve the agreement before a U.N. mandate authorizing international military intervention in Iraq expires at the end this year.

Negotiators made progress on a schedule outlining the drawdown and eventual departure of all U.S. combat forces from Iraq, an issue U.S. President George Bush had resisted, the Post reported. In the past, Washington officials spoke of an "aspirational" time frame linking withdrawals to sustained improved security conditions and the capabilities of Iraqi forces to take over security duties.

While the conditions-based withdrawal calls for U.S. combat troops to be out by the end of 2011, tens of thousands of U.S. troops would remain in Iraq providing support.

"They have both agreed to 2011," Mohammed al-Haj Hamoud, Iraq's chief negotiator, told the Post. "If the Iraqi government at that time decides it is necessary to keep the American forces longer, they can do so."