About That U.S. Troop Withdrawal from Iraq…

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The final Marines in Iraq recently crossed into Kuwait / Marine photo by Lucas Vega

President Obama’s celebratory announcement Friday that the 45,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq  “will definitely be home for the holidays” is generating some blowback. Sure, it’s predictable that the GOP candidates who want his job would denounce it, as Mitt Romney did:

“President Obama’s astonishing failure to secure an orderly transition in Iraq has unnecessarily put at risk the victories that were won through the blood and sacrifice of thousands of American men and women. The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government.

But louder guns are now sounding…

Retired Army general Jack Keane, a key architect of the 2007 “surge” that helped turn the tide in Iraq, terms the U.S. pullout an “absolute disaster.”

The key deal-breaker for a continuing U.S. troop presence in Iraq was Baghdad’s refusal to give U.S. troops immunity from Iraqi laws. U.S. troops in foreign lands routinely are prosecuted by U.S. officials, not foreigners. But that needn’t have been a deal-killer, reports Josh Rogin over at Foreign Policy magazine’s The Cable blog.

He charts U.S. efforts to get U.S. troops to stay beyond 2011, and how that effort got off the rails.

…there was widespread support in Iraq for such an extension, but the Obama administration was demanding that immunity for U.S. troops be endorsed by the Iraqi Council of Representatives, which was never really possible. Administration sources and Hill staffers also tell The Cable that the demand that the troop immunity go through the Council of Representatives was a decision made by the State Department lawyers and there were other options available to the administration, such as putting the remaining troops on the embassy’s diplomatic rolls, which would automatically give them immunity. “An obvious fix for troop immunity is to put them all on the diplomatic list; that’s done by notification to the Iraqi foreign ministry,” said one former senior Hill staffer. “If State says that this requires a treaty or a specific agreement by the Iraqi parliament as opposed to a statement by the Iraqi foreign ministry, it has its head up its ass.”

If Iraq heads south — and there’s a 50-50 chance that it will, once the U.S. military pulls out — this could end up challenging Afghanistan as the key foreign-policy issue of the 2012 presidential contest.