In a defense conference held in Baghdad today, Iraq’s army chief said that the Iraqi army is not ready to take over until 2020. “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,” said Lieutenant General Babakir Zebari, reported The Guardian. Zebari has said that his army would be unable to cope if the Americans left before, but the timing of his statement was notable given Barack Obama’s withdrawal commitment in 2011. Obama’s goal is to be down to 50,000 troops by Sept. 1 and hand over military responsibility to the Iraqi government by the end of August 2011.
This week, Obama was briefed by the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Ray Odierno, who said that American forces were on target for withdrawal dates. Last night, the President affirmed that the withdrawal date was acceptable. Violence in Iraq had been lower than in 2006-2007, but this July saw a marked increase in the number of civilian deaths from bombings, shootings and other attacks.