Iraq's revived air power.

>> Sunday, September 7, 2008

The discussion over the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between the United States and Iraq has been held up over a number of points. The biggest one is that Nuri al-Maliki wants to have the US troops subject to Iraqi jurisdiction. This is a total non-starter. Never going to happen. Why he continues to insist on this provision is causing some consternation among the negotiators, they feel he is over confident--

The Americans "contributed to creating this overconfidence," said an Iraqi official close to al-Maliki. "They kept telling him he can't do it, it's going to be a disaster, and you are going to have massive casualties and not achieve anything in Basra. It achieved things that a much longer British operation couldn't achieve." The official refused to be named because he wasn't authorized to speak to reporters about the issue.

Some of al-Maliki's public statements may amount to political posturing to his fractured political base in parliament, which needs to approve the final security agreement.

Al-Maliki realizes that his security forces still need help, and he's pressing the U.S. administration to accelerate arms sales and to bolster Iraq's fledgling air force.

"He is growing and may feel he's achieved a lot on security and on reconciliation and re-establishing the national unity government," an Iraqi official close to al-Maliki said. "He's taking credit for this security improvement. ... He believes he can afford to disagree with the Americans."

Privately, U.S. officials grumble that al-Maliki doesn't appreciate the training and support that the United States has provided, and some Iraqi officials also worry that the prime minister has let his recent successes overpower the reality in Iraq.

The reasons they feel he is overconfident are numerous. One of the biggest ones is that al-Maliki's success in Basra and other areas can be traced back to the help of the US air power. Air support is a key component in countering the militias and is something they have no answer for. the iraqi's understand this, which is why they are moving to reestablish their air force.

Grounded in 2003 when the U.S.-led invasion began, Iraq's once powerful air force is taking to the skies again. Iraqi planes and helicopters conduct aerial surveillance, ferry troops and supplies, and recently completed their first medical evacuation.

...Because of the technology involved, giving Iraq similar capabilities will be expensive -- "very expensive," said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Brooks Bash, who is responsible for advising the new force.

It will also take time. Although a soldier can be trained in four or five months, it takes three to five years to become an experienced pilot, and seven years to learn to maintain aircraft at the highest level. Air force personnel also need to be proficient in English, which is used by air traffic controllers around the world.

At just over 1,600 personnel and 70 aircraft, the current force is a ghost of its former self. Air force chief Lt. Gen. Kamal Barzanji said he used to be responsible for twice as many troops and aircraft when he was a base commander under Hussein.

U.S. and Iraqi officers have devised a plan to build a self-sufficient air force with 350 aircraft and 20,000 personnel by 2020, but doing so will require the Iraqi government to spend about $2 billion a year.

They are a long way off having a top flight air corp. The building of the force will take a great deal of time and money as the article points out. The iraq's seem eaer to get back into the skies in the role of a mid east air power having requested permission to purchase 36 f-16s from the United States. These planes are not designed to be anti-insurgent air craft but air superiority fighters.

Having the type of air force iraq is pushing for is designed to be a status symbol for the rest of the region. It would be a sign that Iraq is becoming a force to be reckoned with. In many ways though it might be a little early to start dreaming about air superiority. In a sign of just how far the Iraqi's have to go before their country returns to a semblance of normal life,

When the U.S. military began recruiting for a new air force, Abu Mohammed was among the first to sign up. Many other experienced pilots and technicians hesitated. Iraqi pilots are hunted down by Sunni Arab militants for cooperating with the U.S. and by Shiite militants for having participated in the war against Shiite Iran.

Abu Mohammed hides his profession from all but his closest relatives and asked to be identified by a traditional nickname.

If the air force becomes proficient in the type of air support missions required to battle insurgents in urban areas it will further embolden al-Maliki. This is not likely to happen soon with their aircraft not receiving hellfire missiles until next year. The air force is pushing hard for the air craft and i bet al-maliki ends up purchasing them. He wants the US gone and the sooner he can get his air force up to strength the more secure he will feel in his power.


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

  © Blogger template Sunset by 2008

Back to TOP