Columbia International Affairs Online: Policy Briefs

CIAO DATE: 06/2014

Policy Brief: Extending the U.S. Military Role in Iraq

Ramzy Mardini, Marisa Cochrane Sullivan

May 2011

Institute for the Study of War


The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed in 2008 by outgoing President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, requires the U.S. military to completely withdraw from Iraq no later than December 31, 2011. However, Iraq is failing to maintain internal security, continues to experience serious external defense deficiencies, and has unresolved political disagreements that could threaten stability. The national security interests of the United States and Iraq require extending the SOFA and retaining a smaller but still substantial U.S. military footprint in Iraq. The U.S. has signaled its willingness to extend its presence if requested by Iraq. Although Iraq’s leaders increasingly recognize the necessity of extending the Status of Forces Agreement to permit U.S. military involvement beyond 2011, political obstacles have precluded them from initiating a domestic debate on extending the SOFA. As a result, it is necessary for the United States to take on a proactive and leading role when engaging with Iraq’s leaders, and to communicate the importance and value of a new security agreement.