Iraq has declined offers from Turkey and Iran to train its forces, after the failure of negotiations with the U.S. on a post-2011 training mission, a high-ranking Iraqi official said on Tuesday.
“Tehran and Ankara offered to train Iraqi forces, but we did not accept either due to the sensitivity of the situation,” the official in the prime minister's office told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“We cannot accept one state without another,” said the official. “We prefer that the file of training the forces be outside the framework of neighboring countries.”
An October 29 statement from the Iraqi presidency said that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had offered for his country to help train Iraq's forces, during a meeting with Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi.
U.S. President Barack Obama announced on October 21 that all U.S. troops will leave Iraq by year’s end after failed negotiations with Iraq about a post-2011 U.S. military training mission in the country.
The issue of immunity from prosecution for U.S. trainers was the main sticking point, with Washington insisting its troops be given immunity, while Baghdad said that was not necessary.
The roughly 39,000 U.S. soldiers still in Iraq are now in the process of drawing down, after a nearly nine-year campaign that has left thousands of American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi dead, and cost billions of dollars.
While both Iraqi and American officials generally say that Iraqi forces are ready to handle internal security after the US leaves, they admit that there is still much work to be done to improve the capabilities of the Iraqi military.
The Iraqi military's chief of staff, Lieutenant General Babaker Zebari, for instance, was quoted in a Sunday report from a US watchdog as saying the defense ministry of “will be unable to execute the full spectrum of external defense missions until sometime between 2020 and 2024.”