Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi
Source: Press TV
Iraq's Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi says a continued US military presence in the country is “a problem, not a solution,” adding that their year-end pullout will improve Iraq's security.
"The withdrawal of US combat forces will lead to an improvement in the security situation in Iraq by calming the concerns of neighboring countries that felt threatened," al-Hashemi said in a statement released by his office.
The Sunday announcement came nearly two weeks after Iraqi leaders agreed to hold open negotiations with the US about possible post-2011 military training missions in Iraq, AFP reported.
Hashemi instead questioned the cost-effectiveness of the military hardware Iraq is buying from the US, and the training levels it receives for the weapons.
He further added that while “Iraq needs the experience of countries that are equipping it,” the US should be just one of the nations Iraq considers for military equipment.
"I hope in the near future, Iraq will be open to Russia, Southeast Asia and the European Union. There are many countries that have technology which is comparable to what is available in the US, and this technology competes with US technology at lower prices," the Iraqi vice president said.
The SOFA agreement signed between the United States and the Iraqi government mandates that Washington withdraws its troops from Iraq by the end of December 2011.
The US invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext of destroying alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD) belonging to executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
However, it was later found that the country did not possess any WMDs at the time and that the US and Britain, which led the invasion, were well-aware of the non-existence of such weapons in Iraq, but took military action against the oil-rich nation anyway.
Over one million Iraqis have been killed as a result of the occupation, according to a study by the British polling group, Opinion Research Business (ORB).