Top Iraq general: U.S. army ‘must stay’ until 2020
LONDON — The commander of Iraq’s military is calling for U.S. forces to stay in the country for another decade, reinforcing his stance that his country’s military won’t be able to secure the nation on their own after U.S. troops leave.
“At this point, the withdrawal is going well, because they are still here, but the problem will start after 2011,” Gen. Babaker Shawkat Zebari said at a defense conference in Baghdad, according to the BBC.
“The politicians must find other ways to fill the void after 2011… If I were asked about the withdrawal, I would say to politicians: the U.S. army must stay until the Iraqi army is fully ready in 2020,” the BBC reported.
Under the security pact between Baghdad and Washington, all U.S. troops are scheduled to leave by the end of next year.
Violence in Iraq has fallen since the peak of sectarian warfare in 2006-2007, but the number of violent civilian deaths, from daily bombings, shootings and other attacks, rose sharply in July.
Zebari also raised his concerns earlier in the summer, telling the AP in June that Iraq needs the U.S. military in place until Iraqi forces prove capable of defending the nation, a benchmark which he also said at the time forces could take a decade to reach.
He pointed out that the U.S. military maintains a presence in other Middle Eastern countries.