While Baghdad has made it clear it doesn’t want the U.S. to extend its troop presence in the country after 2011, Iraq’s Air Force won’t ready to maintain air sovereignty any time in the foreseeable future, experts said.
Last year, the government announced its intention of purchasing 18 F-16 Block 52 multi-role interceptors in an effort to fast track its way to an effective air defense, but delivery will only begin in 2013 and even this date is reportedly being pushed back, they said
“I don’t think the U.S. Air Force will be able to leave Iraq for at least five years, as there’s no way that the Iraqis alone will be able to deal with any kind of air threat for this period,” said Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Musa Qallab, an independent defense expert and former program manager for Gulf Cooperation Council Defense Issues Gulf Research Center in Dubai.