Iraqi Parliament Approves Status of Forces Agreement
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The Iraqi parliament on Thursday approved by a vast majority a landmark military pact that will have all U.S. troops withdraw from the country by 2011, during a televised session.
The wide-ranging pact was approved by 144 members of the 198 who attended the session of the 275-member assembly, Parliamentary Speaker Mahmud Mashhadani said before adjourning the parliament for a holiday recess.
"It is good to see that representatives have reached a national consensus ... Everyone should understand that if there are gains, they are for all Iraqis, and if there are losses, they will also be for all Iraqis," said government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh.
The approval by lawmakers of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) ends months of wrangling between Baghdad and Washington.
The two sides had been racing to secure a bilateral agreement governing the more than 150,000 U.S.-led troops stationed in the country before December 31.
Most Iraqis are opposed to any kind of deal with Washington that would keep American forces in the country, and that would give U.S. forces immunity from being punished when they commit war crimes against Iraqis.
Here are the main developments since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
- May 1: Six weeks after invading Iraq, President George W. Bush declares an end to major combat in Iraq. An international stabilization force is set up with around 156,000 troops, of which 148,000 are American soldiers.
- Dec 23: Washington announces that 7,000 soldiers will be withdrawn by spring 2006. More than 2,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq since March 2003, putting the U.S. administration under pressure from U.S. public opinion.
- Dec 6: A high-level study group on Iraq, set up at the initiative of the U.S. Congress, reports that Bush's policy in Iraq has failed and calls for the withdrawal of US forces to start.
- Jan 10: Bush announces a "surge" in troop numbers to Iraq, sending another 30,000 soldiers. U.S. forces rise from a base of about 132,000 to a high of 166,300 in October.
- Sept 13: Bush announces plans to begin a drawdown of U.S. "surge" brigades, with the first of five to leave by the end of 2007.
- Nov 26: Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki sign a declaration of principles on the U.S. military presence. Maliki announces that 2008 will be last year in which US forces will be present under a UN mandate. After that the presence will be determined by a bilateral accord.
- April 10: Bush announces the drawdown of U.S. combat brigades will be suspended after July, but says 15-month tours of duty will be shortened to 12-month tours after August.
- May 6: A third 3,500-strong "surge" brigade pull out of Iraq. The overall U.S. force level is 156,000 soldiers.
- Sept 1: An Iraqi daily publishes a draft of the security pact with Washington known as SOFA, showing that immunity for American troops is a key sticking point.
- July 8: The Iraqi government refuses to conclude an accord on the US presence in the country after 2008, as long as Washington does not provide a calendar for withdrawing its troops.
- July 14: Bush rejects artificial calendars for withdrawal, saying that it will depend on conditions on the ground.
- Sept 9: Bush announces he is reducing the U.S. presence by 8,000 in the coming months, which will leave the total number in-country at 140,000. A marine battalion and 3,400 support troops are to leave by the end of the year. U.S. combat strength will go down to 14 brigades by February.