Maliki: Iraq Ready to Take over from US

Arab World Materials 4 December 2011 08:29 (UTC +04:00)
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stressed his country's capability and preparedness to manage its affairs as soon as the US troops pull out of the country.
Maliki: Iraq Ready to Take over from US

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stressed his country's capability and preparedness to manage its affairs as soon as the US troops pull out of the country, Fars News reported.

Nouri al-Maliki told The AP in an exclusive interview Saturday that he has "no concerns whatsoever" about security after all American troops withdraw by Jan. 1. Iraqi security forces have proven themselves capable and able to protect their own country, he said.

"Nothing has changed with the withdrawal of the American forces from Iraq on the security level because basically it has been in our hands," he said.

The prime minister said Iraq has been largely responsible for security ever since the American military pulled out of the cities in 2008 and withdrew to bases outside the cities, leaving the Iraqi military largely responsible for their own internal security.

He said he was not worried about the type of sectarian warfare that almost destroyed Iraq in the years following the 2003 US-led invasion.

"I assure the world that the Iraqi forces and the general situation in the country hasn't changed and will not change," the prime minister said.

The United States started to pullout its remaining troops from Iraq on the last day of October.

"The operation to bring 50,000 US forces out of Iraq's soil has started," Spokesman of the US Embassy in Baghdad David Ranz told FNA correspondent, and added, "These forces will first be transferred to Kuwait and then returned to the US."

The spokesman mentioned that the full operation for the 50,000 troops to return home may take two months.

Washington started the withdrawal after it failed in its efforts to press Baghdad to agree to keep a number of the US troops in Iraq beyond December 31, a deadline which was set in a security agreement between Baghdad and Washington in 2008, known as the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).

Al-Maliki earlier announced that his country's forces are ready to take over security after the pullout of US troops from the country.

Maliki has also rejected the US proposal that 3,400 of the troops remain in the country, saying, "We do not need such a large number."

Late in October, US President Barack Obama communicated an order to Washington's embassy in Baghdad for the start of the US retreat from Iraq.

Ranz told FNA at the time that that Obama has informed the embassy that the pullout is definite and should be complete by the end of 2011.

Earlier this month, Obama said that the United States would withdraw all its troops from Iraq by the end of this year, officially ending the long, divisive war that began in March 2003.

"After nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over," Obama said in the White House briefing room. The last US soldiers will leave by December 31, Obama said.

After 9 years, the US invasion and occupation of Iraq cost the lives of more than 4,400 Americans and tens of thousands of Iraqis, with more than 30,000 US troops wounded. It has also cost US taxpayers around $800 billion so far.