13 Aug 2010

Iraqi forces not ready for US withdrawal - general

3:58 pm on 13 August 2010

Iraq's most senior army officer says the country is not ready for United States troops to begin withdrawing.

American forces are due to start withdrawing at the end of August, apart from 50,000 troops who will support and train Iraqi forces before leaving the country by the end of 2011.

But General Babakir Zebari told a defence conference in Baghdad that his troops will not be ready to stand alone for at least a decade. He said the US should keep its troops in Iraq until then.

The US has 64,000 soldiers in Iraq. About 50,000 will remain until 2011 to train Iraqi forces and protect American interests.

The BBC reports General Zebari's warning echoes a remark by Saddam Hussein's former Foreign Minister Tarik Aziz last week that the Americans were "leaving Iraq to the wolves".

But the White House says President Barack Obama is satisfied with the progress made in Iraq, which will allow US troops to transfer security to local forces as planned.

Violence in Iraq has fallen since the peak of sectarian warfare in 2006-2007, but the number of killings of civilians, from bombings and shootings, rose sharply in July.