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Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA): What Is It, and How Might One Be Utilized In Iraq

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Congressional rept.

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The United States has been party to multilateral and bilateral agreements addressing the status of U.S. armed forces while present in a foreign country. These agreements, commonly referred to as Status of Forces Agreements SOFAs, generally establish the framework under which U.S. military personnel operate in a foreign country, addressing how the domestic laws of the foreign jurisdiction shall be applied toward U.S. personnel while in that country. In light of the Declaration of Principles, signed by U.S. President George W. Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Kamel Al-Maliki on November 26, 2007, and the possibility that the United States will enter into a SOFA with the Government of Iraq, there is considerable interest in Congress in SOFAs, what they may cover, and how they have been concluded in the past. Formal requirements concerning form, content, length, or title of a SOFA do not exist. A SOFA may be written for a specific purpose or activity, or it may anticipate a longer-term relationship and provide for maximum flexibility and applicability. It is generally a stand-alone document concluded as an executive agreement. A SOFA may include many provisions, but the most common issue addressed is which country may exercise criminal jurisdiction over U.S. personnel. Other provisions that may be found in a SOFA include, but are not limited to, the wearing of uniforms, taxes and fees, carrying of weapons, use of radio frequencies, licenses, and customs regulations. SOFAs are often included, along with other types of military agreements, as part of a comprehensive security arrangement with a particular country. A SOFA itself does not constitute a security arrangement rather, it establishes the rights and privileges of U.S. personnel present in a country in support of the larger security arrangement. SOFAs may be entered based on authority found in previous treaties and congressional actions or as sole executive agreements.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law

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