The United States’ long and bloody nightmare in Iraq appears to be coming to a close as the clock ticks down towards December 31, 2011, the deadline for complete US withdrawal under the 2008 US-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). What remains to be seen is what sort of Iraq will be left behind.
Nine years after the US invasion, Iraq is far from the ‘model for democracy’ envisioned by the Bush administration when it invaded and occupied the country. Instead, stability is now the US’ primary policy goal for the country.
In recent months, a number of prominent political and military officials have argued that, despite the terms of the SOFA, the United States should maintain a military presence in Iraq past the end of the year in order to preserve hard won security gains in the country. On a trip to Iraq in April of 2011, then-Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, told troops that the US could remain in Iraq for “years to come.This article was originally published in Near East Quarterly.