Poland officially announced today that they will pull out the rest of their 1700 troops in Iraq by the end of 2005.
That is when the UNSC mandate for foreign troops in Iraq ends.
Once Poland is out, that leaves the UK, Korea and the US with the largest contingents in Iraq… it will be interesting to see how long the Koreans and British stick around… and if they stay at all after the UN mandate is up.
And yes, there is a UN mandate… in fact, there have been many resolutions dealing with Iraq since the war started. (reffered to under official UNSC Resolutions as “The Situation between Iraq and Kuwait).
13. Determines that the provision of security and stability is essential to the successful completion of the political process as outlined in paragraph 7 above and to the ability of the United Nations to contribute effectively to that process and the implementation of resolution 1483 (2003), and authorizes a multinational force under unified command to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq, including for the purpose of ensuring necessary conditions for the implementation of the timetable and programme as well as to contribute to the security of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, the Governing Council of Iraq and other institutions of the Iraqi interim administration, and key humanitarian and economic infrastructure;
14. Urges Member States to contribute assistance under this United Nations mandate, including military forces, to the multinational force referred to in paragraph 13 above;
15. Decides that the Council shall review the requirements and mission of the multinational force referred to in paragraph 13 above not later than one year from the date of this resolution, and that in any case the mandate of the force shall expire upon the completion of the political process as described in paragraphs 4 through 7 and 10 above, and expresses readiness to consider on that occasion any future need for the continuation of the multinational force, taking into account the views of an internationally recognized, representative government of Iraq;
So as you can see, this resolution specifically authorizes the multinational forces under the command of the Authority (US/UK) until such time that an internationally recognized and sovereign government emerges in Iraq.
That mandate was renewed in July 2004 with resolution 1546 with this text:
9. Notes that the presence of the multinational force in Iraq is at the request of the incoming Interim Government of Iraq and therefore reaffirms the authorization for the multinational force under unified command established under resolution 1511 (2003), having regard to the letters annexed to this resolution;
10. Decides that the multinational force shall have the authority to take all necessary measures to contribute to the maintenance of security and stability in Iraq …
12. Decides further that the mandate for the multinational force shall be reviewed at the request of the Government of Iraq or twelve months from the date of this resolution, and that this mandate shall expire upon the completion of the political process set out in paragraph four above, and declares that it will terminate this mandate earlier if requested by the Government of Iraq
1546 also laid out the direction for the process of political reconstruction in Iraq.
4. Endorses the proposed timetable for Iraq’s political transition to democratic government including:
(c) holding of direct democratic elections by 31 December 2004 if possible, and in no case later than 31 January 2005, to a Transitional National Assembly, which will, inter alia, have responsibility for forming a Transitional Government of Iraq and drafting a permanent constitution for Iraq leading to a constitutionally elected government by 31 December 2005;
So that Transitional Government is what we have right now… and the multinational forces currently inside Iraq, including all US and UK forces, will be allowed to stay until Dec 31, 2005 or whenever the Iraqi government decides to have them withdrawn.
And that is the really interesting question…
Many Sunni groups who boycotted the Jan 30 elections including the influencial Associaton of Muslim Scholars wants the foreign troops to leave Iraq. This was demonstrated to great effect on April 10 when both Sunni and Shia (lead by Muqtada Al-Sadr) groups protested in the thousands.
I don’t anticipate the Iraqi government expelling US forces anytime soon… but I do think that as the Iraqi government regains control of their security forces and apparatus and is able to assert itself across the country, we will see it do so quickly and in place America/multinational forces.
It could be that by December 31, with a new constituationally elected government and strong army and police force, Iraq could be ready to take on most of its’ own affairs. I hope that to be the case. And I’m sure that if there is any indication that that will be the case, the multinational forces, including the UK will leave Iraq. I only hope that the US leaves graciously and doesn’t try to exert undo influence on the process… only time will tell.