With final action in the Senate today, Congress has approved legislation that formally recognizes the U.S. obligation to withdraw from Iraq and requires the Pentagon to provide quarterly reports on the progress of that withdrawal.

This is the first time since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 that Congress has passed legislation that affirms that the United States is committed to leaving Iraq by a specific date, two national Quaker organizations, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) said today.

“We congratulate Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin and House Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton for including this important milestone in the 2010 military authorization bill,” said Raed Jarrar, the Iraq consultant for AFSC. “The U.S.-Iraq bilateral agreement is so central to public discourse in Iraq, but too often forgotten in the U.S.”  The United States and Iraq signed a bilateral agreement in November 2008 that commits the United States to withdraw all military forces from Iraq by December 31, 2011.

When President Obama signs the bill given final approval by the Senate today it will require the Pentagon to report to Congress every three months on progress to withdraw all U.S. troops, withdraw or transfer to Iraqi authorities all military equipment, close down or transfer to Iraqi authorities military bases, and release or transfer to Iraqi authorities all Iraqi detainees before the December 31, 2011 deadline. 

“The first congressional effort to signal support for complete withdrawal was the ban on establishing permanent bases in Iraq,” said Jim Fine, the Legislative Secretary on Foreign Policy at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.  “Now the Pentagon will issue month by month reports on the progress made to close down bases or transfer them to the Iraqi government, which adds new teeth to this historic provision.”

When signed into law, Congress will have established unprecedented oversight of the progress made towards complete withdrawal from Iraq. 

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.  For more information visit http://www.afsc.org.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation, the oldest registered religious lobby in Washington, is a non-partisan Quaker lobby in the public interest. FCNL works with a nationwide network of tens of thousands of people from every state in the U.S. to advocate for social and economic justice, peace, and good government. For more information: http://www.fcnl.org.