Academic journal article Military Review

The U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement and the Changing Nature of U.S. Military Operations in Iraq

Academic journal article Military Review

The U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement and the Changing Nature of U.S. Military Operations in Iraq

Article excerpt

Change is the law of life. Those who only look to the past or to the present are certain to miss the future.

--President John F. Kennedy

THE PAST 24 MONTHS have been a period of dynamic change in Iraq. Beginning with the U.S. troop surge in 2007, a number of factors have combined to create improvements in Iraq's security situation that would have been all but unimaginable only a few years ago.

In addition to gains brought about later by the "surge," the Anbar Awakening and the subsequent Sons of Iraq program helped bring stability to areas of Iraq that had previously been hotbeds for Al-Qaeda and sectarian violence. (1) Similarly, the cease-fire declared by Shi'ite cleric Muqtata al Sadr significantly reduced attacks on coalition forces by Sadr's Jaish al-Mahdi and other militias. Finally, intensive training and partnering efforts between coalition forces and Iraqi security forces have begun to pay dividends, as the Iraqi forces steadily developed into a highly capable force. (2)

With the improved security situation, the Iraqi government has taken steps to reinforce Iraq's status as a sovereign, independent nation. The most notable of these steps was implementing the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement. (3) This article looks at selected provisions of the U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement, focusing on the portions of the agreement that affect U.S. military operations at the tactical level. It examines how, under the terms of the agreement, U.S. forces in Iraq have largely transitioned from intelligence-driven, unilateral combat operations to warrant-based operations led by Iraqi security forces. The article also discusses Iraqi jurisdiction over U.S. forces--an area of significant concern to U.S. commanders.

From Blank Check to Strict Guidelines

From April 2003 through December 2008, the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq operated under the broad, permissive mandate of a series of UN Security Council Resolutions (UNSCRs). The last of these resolutions--UNSCR 1790--was issued in December 2007.4 Like its predecessors, UNSCR 1790 authorized the coalition to "take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq." (5)

The resolution's "all necessary measures" language gave coalition forces in Iraq a tremendous amount of latitude. Acting under the resolution's broad mandate, coalition forces conducted unilateral combat operations, captured and held detainees indefinitely, built bases, and stationed military forces throughout Iraq, often without the consent or approval of the government of Iraq.

By the spring of 2008, Iraq's security situation had vastly improved, and increasingly competent Iraqi security forces began to take the lead for security in many of the country's key provinces. In the United States, the 2008 presidential election was in full swing, and with popular support for the war ebbing, the leading candidates from both parties pledged to make wholesale changes to U.S. Iraq policy if they were elected in November. (6) Just as importantly, the coalition's legal authority to operate in Iraq--UNSCR 1790--was set to expire on 31 December 2008. Without a new UNSCR or some other grant of international legal authority, the United States would be without a legal basis for conducting operations in Iraq in 2009.

Given the overall lack of enthusiasm among the international community for U.S.-led operations in Iraq, obtaining a new UN Security Council Resolution seemed highly unlikely. Accordingly, U.S. and Iraqi officials began the difficult task of constructing an agreement that would outline not only the conditions for U.S. withdrawal, but also the status of U.S. forces in Iraq from 2009 forward.

U.S. negotiators entered into talks hoping to buy enough time for U.S. and Iraqi forces to capitalize on the hard-fought security gains of the past two years. For its part, the Iraqi government quickly asserted its newfound sense of independence by proposing a number of restrictions on U. …

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