Iraqi security forces will be able to control the country when U.S. forces withdraw, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Thursday. U.S. President Barack Obama said last month the United States will withdraw all combat troops from Iraq by the end of August next year.
Maliki's remarks contradicted those of Iraqi Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi, who told Reuters in an interview in Baghdad on Wednesday he was concerned Iraqi security forces may not be prepared to meet Obama's withdrawal dates. This week, two bombing attacks killed at least 60 people in Baghdad.
"When it comes to the withdrawal of American forces, I believe that the Iraqis will be capable of taking the whole situation in their hands," Maliki said in Canberra after trade and security talks with his Australian counterpart Kevin Rudd.
According to Reuters, Maliki said the abilities of Iraqi forces in both combat operations and intelligence gathering had been steadily improving through close cooperation with local communities. "Notwithstanding the gruesome operations that took place and the large number of victims, al Qaeda, extremists and terrorists in Iraq have lost their capabilities of confronting and challenging the security forces in Iraq," he conveyed.