Iraq general says `forces not ready until 2020`
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Last Updated: Sunday, October 30, 2011, 16:39
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 operational.

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.


First Published: Sunday, October 30, 2011, 16:39

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