Report: New security agreement may see combat troops withdraw within Iraq

An apparent compromise on last week’s proposal that would have had all combat troops out by 2010, conditions permitting. The new plan: Combat troops out of the country by 2011 (again, conditions permitting) but out of the cities next summer, with the departure date for residual forces TBD. If the current troop presence is like training wheels, this is like taking the wheels off but running alongside the bike. The point is to be as close as possible to catch it in case it starts to topple over.

In one of the most detailed insights yet into the content of the deal, Hoshyar Zebari, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, has also told The Times that the US military would be barred from unilaterally mounting attacks inside Iraq from next year…

The terms of the deal can be reviewed within one or two years, subject to the approval of both sides – which ensures that the next US Administration will not be bound by the conditions…

The “time horizon” for the exit of US troops would depend upon the ability of the Iraqi police and army to maintain security gains in Iraq after a surge of US forces in 2007 helped to push violence to its lowest levels in 4½ years.

“We are talking about combat troops, maybe in 2010-11, there could be drawdowns,” Mr Zebari said, confirming that this was referred to in the draft accord…

The draft accord also refers to the prospect of US troops beginning to exit small bases set up inside various cities in Iraq to larger camps outside from next summer – which could be as early as June – depending on the security situation.

“The idea is really to keep these forces outside the main cities, the population centres. It doesn’t mean that they could not enter or come through,” the Foreign Minister said.

It’s an experiment in sovereignty, in other words (particularly the boldfaced detail), which tries to solve the problem in Obama’s strategy of withdrawing to regional bases and then sending forces back into the country if need be to tamp down any fundie flare-ups. You can’t transgress a border like that without re-offending national pride; from within the country, though, with a troop presence that’s out of sight but not completely out of mind, you have a bit more leeway to intervene. Seems like a reasonable enough compromise to me, especially paired with the fact that it doesn’t allow for permanent bases, but maybe I missed something. Flashback video for you from February to consider while you mull.