As the U.S. continues to pull its combat troops by the thousands every week out of Iraq in order to have “only” 50,000 troops in country by the end of the month, officially ending our combat mission there, Iraq faces an uncertain future.
A suicide bombing this morning, Baghdad time, killed at least 59 people and injured at least 100 more at an Iraqi army recruitment center in the heart of the capital.
After condemning the attack, President Obama said:
There are obviously still people who want to derail the advances that the Iraqi people have made towards democracy, but they are firmly on track and we’re confident that we’re moving towards the end of our combat mission there.
Our military presence in Iraq is scheduled to end altogether by the end of 2011.
But, will Iraq’s military be ready to assume their mission to defend the country?
Will Iraqi’s new Air Force be ready to defend Iraq’s air space?
In “Why the Iraqi Air Force Did Not ‘Show Up’ in 2003,” we saw how the Iraqi Air Force—once a proud and powerful arm of Iraq’s Security Forces—was decimated by air attacks during and after Operation Desert Storm and was eventually literally dismantled or buried in the desert by Saddam Hussein, to the point that when Coalition Air Forces attacked Iraq in 2003, not a single Iraqi aircraft rose to challenge the enemy.
During the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and continuing up to the present, the U.S. has been busily rebuilding the Iraqi Air Force (IqAF).
However, neither U.S. nor Iraqi officials are confident that the new IqAF will be ready and capable to defend its skies by the time U.S. forces leave Iraq completely. Hence, there is increased discussion about the U.S. Air Force continuing to be the “guarantor” for the integrity of Iraq’s air space, about a “long-term partnership” in air operations that would continue for several more years.
To read more about the rise and fall, and rise, of the IqAF, please click here.
Art: Courtesy of the author’s grandson, Preston Werner
The author is a retired U.S. Air Force officer and a writer.