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Exclusive: McCain Gaffe On Status of Forces Agreement Raises More Questions About Iraq Knowledge

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"Exclusive: McCain Gaffe On Status of Forces Agreement Raises More Questions About Iraq Knowledge"

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Our guest blogger is Adam Jentleson, the Communications and Outreach Director for the Hyde Park Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

mac.gifIn all the hubbub over his comments that withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq was “not important,” McCain still hasn’t taken a clear position on the status of forces agreement (SOFA) currently being negotiated between the U.S. and Iraqi governments.

Maybe this is because McCain lacks familiarity with the topic. Earlier this year, he gaffed when George Stephanopoulos asked him about the SOFA:

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Bush is also negotiating a long-term status of forces agreement with Iraq. Both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama say that agreement has to come to the Congress.

MCCAIN: It wouldn’t bother me to bring it to the Congress. I don’t think that’s a huge deal. We have status of forces…

STEPHANOPOULOS: President Bush says he doesn’t want to, though.

MCCAIN: Well, look, if we succeed in Iraq, which I believe we are, the rest of it takes care of itself. We have status of force agreements with a number of countries that have never been approved by Congress; we have some others that have been approved by Congress.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But the big ones, Korea was approved by Congress.

MCCAIN: Yes, but we have some countries — we’re still in Bosnia. We don’t have a status of forces agreement there, as I recall. We have — look…

Problem is, the U.S. does have a status of forces agreement with Bosnia.

Perhaps McCain was thinking of another example of a country where we have a long-term troop presence but no SOFA. If not, he may need to come up with another answer to the question.

In theory, McCain should welcome questions about his stance on the SOFA. The SOFA is a binding legal agreement setting the terms for the U.S. presence in Iraq in the years to come. It’s necessary because the UN mandate authorizing the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq expires at the end of this year, and it will put on paper the answers to major questions like, how many bases will we have in Iraq? Will they be permanent or temporary? Who will be in charge of the Iraqi security forces? How many U.S. troops will be stationed in Iraq? What will their mission be, and how long will they be there?

So if McCain truly does not think it’s “not important” when we withdraw U.S. troops, and if he truly does not want us to be in Iraq for 100 years, then this should be the perfect vehicle for him to explain, in concrete terms, his vision for the U.S. presence in Iraq in the coming years.

But maybe he still needs some time to bone up on the issue.

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