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If Iraq chief of staff were asked, 'I would say to politicians: U.S. Army must stay until ... 2020'


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me_iraq0773_08_12.aspWorld Tribune:


Iraq has determined that it would require another decade of U.S. military support. Iraq's military has assessed that it could not protect its borders without U.S. aid until at least 2020. Officials said the military has determined that it lacked combat aircraft, attack helicopters and an air defense network.

"If I were asked about the withdrawal, I would say to politicians: the U.S. Army must stay until the Iraq Army is fully ready in 2020," Iraqi Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Babakar Zebari said

This marked the first time over the last two years that a senior Iraqi official called for a long-term U.S. military presence in Iraq. All U.S. combat forces were scheduled to leave Iraq by Aug. 31, leaving 50,000 American support personnel. Officials reported a current U.S. military presence of 64,000 troops.


In remarks on Aug. 11, Zebari warned that Iraq would face a security crisis. He cited the prospect of instability as early as 2012, when the U.S. military was scheduled to leave Iraq.


"At this point, the [u.S.] withdrawal is going well, because they are still here," Zebari told Agence France Presse said. "But the problem will start after 2011. The politicians must find other ways to fill the void after 2011 because the Army will be fully ready in 2020."


Officials said the military has assessed that it would reach self-sufficiency to battle the insurgency in Iraq by the time all U.S. troops leave in late 2011. But they said Iraq would remain vulnerable to foreign attack as well as insurgency infiltration from neighboring Iran and Syria.


A key Iraqi project called for the procurement of up to 100 F-16 multi-role fighters by 2020. Officials said the first combat aircraft, identified as the F-16 Block 52+ by Lockheed Martin, were scheduled to arrive in 2013.


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