Thursday, August 12, 2010

Iraq's Military Requests U.S. Forces Stay Until 2020

Iraqi Chief of Staff Gen. Zebari
Iraq’s Army Chief of Staff told Agence France Presse that the United States military needed to stay in Iraq until 2020. General Babaker Zebari repeated an often made claim that Iraq’s security forces would not be ready until then to protect the country from external threats. He called on Iraq’s politicians to extend the U.S. presence after the 2011 deadline for their withdrawal set in the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

Members of the Iraqi forces and Defense Ministry have been saying for years that the country would not have the planes, ships, and tanks necessary for external defense until 2020. Previous examples were a Ministry of Defense spokesman in August 2008 saying that Iraq would not have the medium and heavy weapons necessary for that task until that date. (1) The Minister of Defense Abdul Qadir Obeidi in the same month told the paper Azzaman that Iraq’s military would not be fully independent and re-armed until 2020. In September 2008, General Zebari told the press that the armed forces had plans to be equal to neighboring Iran, Turkey, and Syria within twelve years. The next year in April, the head of Iraq’s Air Force said that he wanted to buy 96 F-16 fighters from the U.S. by 2020 so that it would be on par with Iran and Syria. In February 2010 Minister Obeidi told Reuters the 2020 date again

Currently the Iraqi military is focused upon counterinsurgency. The Iraqi Army, the largest and most proficient branch, is deployed across the nation’s cities, manning checkpoints, and carrying out raids against militants. The Ministry of Defense has finally started moving towards external defense this year. The Iraqi Navy for example, is conducting patrols around Iraq’s offshore oil terminals, and one Iraqi division has T-72 and MIA1 Abrams tanks. The country still lacks all the equipment necessary to protect itself from other countries however, such as jet fighters, but is in the process of acquiring those weapons. Until then, Iraq will depend upon U.S. forces. The problem is at the end of 2011 all American troops are required to leave the country under the SOFA. It’s widely expected that the agreement will be re-negotiated, but it could be more difficult than the first time. For one, neither the American nor the Iraqi governments have prepared their legislatures or publics for such a long-term relationship. Second, Moqatda al-Sadr’s followers may have a prominent role in the next Iraqi ruling coalition because of their strong showing in the March parliamentary elections, and they are one of the strongest opponents of the U.S. presence. Those present early and daunting obstacles to any new Status of Forces Agreement, but it’s what both militaries want.

FOOTNOTES

1. Alsumaria, “Iraq upgrades security forces capacities,” 8/20/08

SOURCES

Adas, Basil, “US launches plan to boost Iraqi army’s capability,” Gulf News, 9/24/08

Agence France Presse, “Iraq ‘needs US military support until 2020,’” 8/11/10

Alsumaria, “Iraq to purchase F-16 fighters this year,” 4/1/09
- “Iraq upgrades security forces capacities,” 8/20/08

Arraf, Jane, “Iraqi Army: almost one-quarter lacks minimum qualifications,” Christian Science Monitor, 5/22/09

Jakes, Lara, “Iraqi forces lacking as U.S. military ends mission,” Associated Press, 8/4/10

Missing Links Blog, “Iraqi forces to be ready by the year 2020, according to plan,” 8/11/08

Reuters, “U.S. pullout top challenge for Iraq security: minister,” 2/28/10

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Quarterly and Semiannual Report to the United States Congress,” 7/30/10

World Tribune, “Iraq’s makes wish list official: Two dozen F-16s,” 4/14/10

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Remember that General Babaker Zebari is a Kurd - which may influence his perspective on this question.

Joel Wing said...

As the article points out his view is shared by others in the military and defense ministry leadership.

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