Iraqi leader estimates timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal

Transition team soldiers at Fort Riley go through rigorous training.

Friday, the Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Army, Gen. Babaker Baderkhan Shawkat Zebar shared his thoughts on the mission.

Gen. Babaker touched down on the cold snow-covered ground at America’s Warfighting Center, to see how U.S. soldiers prepare to teach his troops.

“The way things are going, I am confident the Iraqi Army will be a very powerful, very strong, very capable Army in the near future,” Gen. Babaker Baderkhan Shawkat Zebari said.

Major General Carter Hamm says the two have known each other for about three years now, and says his input on how transition teams practice is essential in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“Mostly, he’s asked us to make sure we continually emphasize the importance of understanding the cultural environment in which out advisors and our soldiers are operating,” Ft. Riley Commander Maj. Gen. Carter Hamm said.

That’s exactly what the transition team training does. It teaches U.S. soldiers to communicate with the Iraqi’s so they can teach Iraqi forces to fight for themselves.

General Babaker said he knows the sacrifices the U.S. has made for his country and said thanks to Americans reforming the Iraqi Army they will be ready to fight their own fight very soon.

“We hope and we envision that by March, ’08, the vast majority of American troops will be able to leave the country and be withdrawn,” Gen. Babaker’s translator said.

Major General Hamm said General Babaker will increase the Iraqi Armed Forces presence, partly inside Baghdad where he said the security is most difficult.

“I think he clearly recognizes and reiterated to us that it must be the Iraqi’s that are in the lead,” Maj. Gen. Hamm said. “We do bring them some capabilities that the Iraqi’s don’t have yet.”

Until then, Major General Hamm said it’s our role to help and support them until they’re ready.

“We will be with you Americans shoulder to shoulder in enforcing the rule of law, not just in Iraq, but outside of Iraq.”

Despite what General Babaker said, the White House has been reluctant to set any timetable for troop withdrawal.