Iraq’s Defense Minister Abdul Qadir Obeidi talked to the Los Angeles Times in September 2010, and told them that Iraq may need U.S. military support indefinitely. In his remarks, the Minister said that U.S. trainers, advisers, and logistical troops would be needed until at least 2016, and that the U.S. Air Force would have to stay until 2020, the date he hoped the Iraqi Air Force would be ready to take over defense of the country’s skies. Iraq would also require help with intelligence past the 2011 deadline for U.S. forces to withdraw, and Baghdad planned on buying large quantities of American military equipment, said to stand at $13 billion. The Defense Minister added that since Iraq was a developing nation it might need "endless" help from Washington.
Obeidi’s remarks are just the latest by a member of Iraq’s defense establishment that the country might ask for U.S. aid after 2011. Back in August, the chief of staff of the Iraqi military, General Babker Zebari told the press that some sort of U.S. presence might be needed until 2020. He said that American troops in 3-4 bases might be necessary to deter Iraq’s neighbors. He went on to say that trainers and advisers should be the main form of U.S. aid.
Other officials have mentioned an extended U.S. presence for several years now, and American military officers have increasingly made similar comments as well. That points to both militaries asking their politicians to amend the Status of Forces Agreement that set the 2011 date for withdrawal. The question as ever is whether anyone in Washington and Baghdad will agree since the issue is so unpopular in both parts of the world right now. Talk about an open ended presence will make the matter even more difficult.
Michaels, Jim, “Iraq to spend $13B on U.S. arms, equipment,” USA Today, 8/31/10
Rao, Prashant, “Iraqi army needs US help to sustain itself,” Middle East Online, 9/2/10
Sly, Liz, “Iraqi official foresees a U.S. military presence until 2016,” Los Angeles Times, 9/8/10