Some anonymous U.S. officials and specialists who follow the war have argued they believe that parts of the agreement may be circumvented and that other parts may be open to interpretation, including: the parts giving Iraqi legal jurisdiction over United States soldiers who commit crimes off base and off duty, the part requiring for US troops to obtain Iraqi permission for all military operations, and the part banning the United States from staging attacks on other countries from Iraq. For example, administration officials have argued that Iraqi prosecution of U.S. soldiers could take three years, by which time the U.S. will have withdrawn from Iraq under the terms of the agreement. In the interim, U.S. troops will remain under the jurisdiction of America's Uniform Code of Military Justice. Michael E. O'Hanlon, of the Brookings Institution research group, said there are "these areas that are not as clear cut as the Iraqis would like to think."
U.S. President George W. Bush hailed the passing of the agreement between the two countries. "The Security Agreement addresses our presence, activities, and withdrawal from Iraq", Bush said. He continued that "two years ago, this day seemed unlikely - but the success of the surge and the courage of the Iraqi people set the conditions for these two agreements to be negotiated and approved by the Iraqi parliament".
Army planners have privately acknowledged they are examining projections that could see the number of Americans hovering between 30,000 and 50,000, but maybe as high as 70,000, for a substantial time beyond 2011. Pentagon planners say those currently counted as combat troops could be "re-missioned" and that their efforts could be redefined as training and support for the Iraqis. Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen has also said "three years is a long time. Conditions could change in that period of time".
In a letter to U.S. military personnel about new rules of engagement, Gen. Ray Odierno said that U.S. forces would reduce their visibility but that this does not mean "any reduction in our fundamental ability to protect ourselves". Odierno wrote that U.S. forces would coordinate "operations with the approval of the GoI (Government of Iraq), and we will conduct all operations by, with, and through the Iraqi Security Forces...Despite some adjustments to the way we conduct operations, the agreement simply reinforces transitions that are already underway, and I want to emphasize that our overarching principles remain the same", he further wrote.
General Raymond Odierno said that some U.S. forces would remain at local security stations as training and mentoring teams past the June 2009 deadline specified in the status of forces agreement. In contrast, Robert Gates estimated U.S. troops will be "out of cities and populated areas" by June 30. "That's the point at which we will have turned over all 18 provinces to provincial Iraqi control", he predicted. A spokesman for Odierno, Lt. Col. James Hutton, reiterated that the soldiers staying in cities would not be combat forces but rather "enablers," who would provide services such as medical care, air-traffic control and helicopter support that the Iraqis cannot perform themselves. Odierno's comments sparked outrage among some Iraqi lawmakers who say the United States is paving the way for breaching the interim agreement.
When asked by Charlie Rose in a PBS interview how big the American “residual” force would be in Iraq after 2011, Secretary of Defense Gates replied that although the mission would change, “my guess is that you’re looking at perhaps several tens of thousands of American troops”.