President Barack Obama campaigned on a promise to remove all combat troops within 16 months and has asked the Pentagon to plan for "a responsible military drawdown from Iraq."
With planning under way, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told a political rally south of Baghdad that he believes the end of the U.S. mission "will be brought forward" and that Iraq must bolster its own forces to meet the challenge after the Americans leave.
The Shiite-led government pushed for a faster U.S. pullout during last year's negotiations on the security agreement, overcoming longtime Bush administration opposition to a fixed withdrawal schedule.
Al-Maliki has been campaigning actively on behalf of his allies for next weekend's provincial elections, promoting his image as the leader who restored stability and ended what many Iraqis see as a U.S. military occupation.
Of course, Maliki expects to be left in charge of the Iraqi security forces if he can get US forces out before his rivals manage to oust him. And at that point, those rivals have no chance of ousting him if he doesn't want to go. He's already shown willing to use the security forces to bolster his own position.
But that's hardly our business. It's always been stated American policy that the US would leave when the Iraqi leadership asked them to - something that "SOFA stretchers" like Odierno and Crocker could all do with a Presidential reminder on.