Iraq ready if Obama orders quick exit: Minister
Iraq's military is ready if US President Obama orders a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops, Defence Minister said.
Iraq's military is ready if President Barack Obama orders a swift withdrawal of U.S. troops, Defence Minister Abdul Qader Jassim said on Thursday.
Obama -- who opposed the war in Iraq and campaigned on a pledge to withdraw U.S. combat troops by mid-2010 -- met military chiefs on Wednesday, his first day in office, and told them to plan for a "responsible military drawdown" from Iraq.
In a security pact which took effect on New Year's Day, the former U.S. administration of President George W. Bush committed to pulling combat troops out of Iraq's towns by mid-2009 and withdrawing entirely from the country by the end of 2011.
Asked if Iraq was ready in case of a quicker U.S. exit, Jassim told a news conference: "We cannot leave our country whether (U.S.) troops withdraw from it or not. We are here, and we have our plans prepared for the worst."
He said Iraq's army was 90 percent ready to conduct combat missions on its own but the military would need until at least mid-2010 to set up a self-sufficient air force.
Iraqi officials have frequently said they do not think Obama's plans would require major changes to the timetable of withdrawals they negotiated with the Bush administration.
Obama has not given a complete definition of the combat troops he would withdraw by mid-2010.
Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Major General Abdul-Kareem Khalaf said a speedier U.S. pullout was unlikely, but Iraq would be ready if necessary.
"There are prepared plans for such possibilities. These plans are in hand and ready to execute. But I don't think this will happen because the pact is moving at a quick pace according to the established timetables."
Reuters Last Mod: 23 Ocak 2009, 11:05