Iraq general says `forces not ready until 2020`

Months before US troops are to leave Iraq, a top general said that they were unable to defend their airspaces till 2020.

Baghdad: Iraq will not be fully able to
defend its borders and airspace until at least 2020, a
watchdog quoted Iraq`s top general as saying in a report
Sunday, months before US troops are to leave.

The Iraqi military`s chief of staff, Lieutenant
General Babaker Zebari, "estimated that it will take several
more years before Iraq can provide for its external defence
without assistance from international partners," said the
report from the US Special Inspector General for Iraq
Reconstruction (SIGIR).

"General Zebari suggested that the (Ministry of
Defence) will be unable to execute the full spectrum of
external-defence missions until sometime between 2020 and
2024, citing (Iraqi government) funding shortfalls as the main
reason for the delay," the report said.

"Iraq will not be able to defend its own airspace
until 2020, at the earliest," Zebari told SIGIR, adding that
"an army without an air force is exposed."

Iraq has ordered 18 F-16 warplanes from the United
States, but it will be years before that force is fully

Zebari has stated before that his forces will require
training for another decade before they are fully capable of
securing the country.

Iraq`s military has been tied down by years of bloody
internal conflict here, with US officers saying it needs to
transition to a more traditional role of external defence.


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