After talking to the Kurdish online paper Rudaw in April, and saying that if U.S. troops stayed in Iraq past the 2011 deadline they would harm Iraq, the Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Army General Babaker Zebari turned around and gave another Kurdish periodical an interview where he said if the Americans left that too would harm the country.
On May 10, 2011 AK News published an article based upon a conversation with General Zebari. Amongst his statements he made the point that the American withdrawal would leave the country vulnerable to other countries because it relies upon them for help with air and border security. He also stated that a U.S. presence was needed in the disputed territories where they have created joint Iraqi-American-Kurdish checkpoints to help moderate arguments there. His overall message was that the Iraqi military needed continued aid from the U.S., and that there would be a vacuum if their troops completely left. This is something he originally told the press in August 2010. Then in April 2011 he changed course and said that if the Americans stayed, it would cause more problems than solutions. The general has now switched back to his original position.
Why the back and forth? His original interview back in 2010 was with Reuters, which got wide coverage inside and outside Iraq. That was obviously meant to influence the debate on American troops. His latest discussions have been with two small Kurdish outlets that are hardly likely to be noticed. His first one with Rudaw appeared to reflect the current political climate in the country, which is largely anti-American. Now he’s changed back with no hints as to why. More importantly, will his opinion have any impact upon Baghdad? Probably not, because the Iraqi parties are still trying to complete the new government, and any discussion of U.S. forces will get caught up in this competition and be manipulated. The nation’s elite therefore want to stay away from this issue until they solidify their status within the new ruling coalition.
Aziz, Raber, “Iraqi army chief voices concerns about pending US withdrawal,” AK News, 5/10/11
Rudaw, “Army Chief of Staff: Iraqi Army Unable to Control Iraq Until 2020,” 4/28/11