Speaking today Iraqi Defense Minister Abdul Obeidi predicted that the US military would stay at least through 2016 because there are incoming arms purchases that will still be arriving through at least that point. The training mission could last far longer. however.
“Maybe endlessly,” Obeidi admitted, adding that there was no reasonable ability of the Iraqi military to operate without American assistance and that the air force wouldn’t have serious capacity to defend its own airspace until at least 2020.
Though the Obama Administration last week declared the war “over” the US still has some 50,000 troops in Iraq, and though they are supposed to be “non-combat” troops they continue to participate in combat missions.
Under the Status of Forces Agreement the troops are supposed to leave at the end of 2011, but US officials are privately admitting that this will almost certainly not happen. A number of Iraqi military officials have floated the 2020 date, but even this seems purely speculative.