Tue Aug 21, 2018 | 20:32
Maliki: Iraq can handle its own security
Thu, 21 Apr 2011 23:24:04 GMT
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Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has told the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff that Baghdad is ready to take control of the country's security measures.

In a meeting with Admiral Mike Mullen, who arrived in Baghdad on Thursday, Maliki said the Iraqi army is capable of maintaining its country's security and that “they worked with professionalism.”

The American forces should leave as scheduled, he said.

Maliki added that Iraqi forces would “continue to strengthen their combat capabilities while providing them with the latest equipment and weapons.”

A 2008 security agreement between Baghdad and Washington mandates the removal of US forces from Iraq before 2012.

About 47,000 American soldiers are currently stationed in the oil-rich Middle Eastern country.

US has long eyed a prolonged stay in Iraq and has expressed doubts about withdrawing all American combat troops from the oil-rich nation by the end-of-the-year deadline.

During his flight to Baghdad, Mullen told reporters that Iraqi leaders would need to start a serious dialogue “in a meaningful way” if they wanted the US forces to stay beyond the deadline.

Any decision to change that was up to Iraq, Reuters quoted him as saying.

Earlier this month, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Washington would keep American soldiers in the country if Baghdad asks for additional help. He said that the US is prepared to extend its military presence in Iraq beyond December 31, 2011.

But Maliki had emphatically rejected the offer then and had told Gates that he expects “all” American troops to leave by the end of the year. He had said: “Our armed forces have now the ability to counter any attack, and the ability is increasing day by day."

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