BBC World Service

Iraqi government will still depend on U.S. for help

Steve Chiotakis Dec 12, 2011

Steve Chiotakis: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is in Washington today. His White House visit comes as American troops prepare to leave the country by the year’s end. So what does the future hold for relations between the two countries? And for the economy of Iraq?

The BBC’s Jim Muir is with us now from Baghdad. He has the latest on that story. Hey Jim.

Jim Muir: Hi there.

Chiotakis: What will the U.S. presence, do you think, look like after January 1st? And I’m talking about how much money that the U.S. pours into Iraq.

Muir: Certainly, although the last troops are on their way out — and will be gone before the end of the year — that doesn’t mean an end of the whole story of a U.S. presence here. There’s going to be an embassy that will be the biggest in the world, with something like 15,000, 16,000 people. Some of them — a small number, 150 or so — will be military trainers who will be working closely with the Iraqi military. Plus several hundred private contractors doing the same kind of thing.

So there will still be Americans around, but they’ll certainly be way less visible than they were in the earlier years, up until, say, a couple of years ago, when it was quite common to see American troops in the streets during patrols, during checkpoints and things. That’s already in the past.

Chiotakis: And certainly, Iraq needs the United States for economic help, right?

Muir: Less so for economic help, I would say, than for military help or strategic help. Economically, they’re producing something like 2.9 billion barrels of oil a day. So they’ve got money. It’s not so much just money that they need. It’s more, for example, training.

They want to buy as many as 36 F-16’s — that’s not just something you take delivery of and start flying around, they need a lot of training. It’s going to be some years before they get them fully operational and have anything like the capacity to defend their own airspace or their borders. So it’s really that external defence capability that is missing at the moment — as well as, perhaps, intelligence, operations and so on against what both sides call terrorism.

So there’s a lot of ways in which they will be looking to America for help. Less, I would say, in terms of financial handouts than of expertise and some kind of strategic bolstering.

Chiotakis: The BBC’s Jim Muir in Baghdad. Jim, thank you so much.

Muir: You’re most welcome.

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