One of the things that struck me about Friday night’s debate on the time line for troop withdrawal was that McCain appeared to believe that how long US troops remain in Iraq and at what strength is a unilateral matter dictated by Washington. The government of prime minister Nuri al-Maliki is already trying to negotiate a timetable for US withdrawal as part of the proposed security agreement. A majority of parliament certainly supports a timetable.
Indeed, the Iraqi government wanted a 2010 deadline for withdrawal. Bush pushed for a delay until 2015 in part because he was afraid that agreeing to 2010 would make McCain look bad. The Iraqis were forced to accept 2011.
There is even less tolerance for a long term foreign troop presence among ordinary Iraqis, thousands of whom have lost relatives to US military operations. Aljazeera English reports on the death of a respected Iraqi academic in Baquba, shot at a US checkpoint.
One exception to this yearning to see the Americans go is the some of the Kurds, who as a minority trying to remain independent of Baghdad and able to confront Turkey. Some Kurds would very much like to keep US troops in Iraq. This Kurdish aspiration explains Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari’s continual announcements about there being no timetable in the security agreement. Clearly, the Shiite Arabs do want a timetable.
It is not just Iraqis. About 60 percent of Americans want a timeline for US troop withdrawal from Iraq.