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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iraqi Vice Chief of Staff: Air component top priority

by Capt. John Severns
Air Education and Training Command Public Affairs

3/10/2009 - RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- The Iraqi joint forces vice chief of staff discussed his country's top military priorities during a visit to Air Education and Training Command March 4.

Chief among those priorities are the establishment of credible, effective air and naval components, General Nasier Arkan Al-Abadi said.

"The Iraqi air force is just starting its journey as an air force," General Al-Abadi said. "To be able to function as an air force, you need the pilots and the aircraft."

Currently Iraq is short on both, he added.

For its part, AETC will continue training Iraq's air force as it embarks on a significant acquisition program that will see it equipped with training aircraft, helicopters, transport aircraft, and fighter aircraft over the next several years, said Lt. Col. Paul Bigelow, AETC Foreign Disclosure Office chief. "Our goal is to carry on building a long-term relationship and provide Iraq with its own sustainable self-defense capability."

AETC is responsible for recruiting, training and education in the U.S. Air Force, and provides training assistance to numerous foreign militaries, including Iraq's.

According to the general, the path to a fully functioning air force will include trainers such as the T-6 and pilot training at U.S. bases. The T-6 is used as an introductory trainer by the U.S. Air Force and several other air forces around the world.

The general's visit to AETC comes on the heels of a similar visit by Iraqi Minister of Defense Abdul Qadir in February, during which he toured Randolph and received briefings on the U.S. Air Force's F-16 training programs. During that visit, the Minister said that Iraq's goal is to take full control of its internal security by 2011.

General Al-Abadi agreed with that assessment, saying that the Iraqi Security Forces would be able to handle internal security by the time the last American troops are scheduled to leave Iraq.

"I think the Iraqi ground forces are able to cope with the counterinsurgency," he said. "It is not the same counterinsurgency that we had in 2006 or 2007; the security level is much better."

Certain parts of the country, such as Diyala and Mosul, remain less secure, but even in those areas progress is being made, he added.

The general noted that the powerful new capabilities his air force is poised to obtain will be used in a purely defensive capacity.

"Iraq is no longer a dictatorial nation," he said. "Iraq is now a sovereign country, a democratic country, a peace-loving country that would like peace with its neighbors and friendship with the U.S."

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