BAGHDAD: The Iraqi army will require American support for another decade before it is ready to handle the country’s security on its own, Iraq’s army chief of staff told AFP on Wednesday.
Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari said Iraq’s politicians had to find a way to "fill the void" after American troops withdraw from the country at the end of next year under a bilateral security pact.
"At this point, the withdrawal (of US forces) is going well, because they are still here," Zebari 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.
"If I were asked about the withdrawal, I would say to politicians: the US army must stay until the Iraqi army is fully ready in 2020."
Zebari’s remarks came as US forces were in the process of withdrawing thousands of soldiers from Iraq to meet an August 31 declaration of an end to combat operations by US troops.
By that point, Washington has committed to having 50,000 troops stationed in Iraq, from about 64,000 now.