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ISIL advance in Iraq prompts U.S. to suspend deliveries of F-16s, Apaches

Special to WorldTribune.com

WASHINGTON — The United States has suspended the delivery of military aircraft to Iraq.

Officials said the administration of President Barack Obama has rebuffed Iraqi requests for the combat aircraft after concluding that the Iraqi military was not capable of securing these platforms amid the advance of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Iraqi F-16

Iraqi F-16

The officials said the F-16s no longer had a home with the ISIL siege on the Iraq Air Force base at Balad.

“There is simply no infrastructure right now that could accommodate the aircraft,” an official said.

In mid-2014, the Defense Department was expected to oversee the deliveries of the first of 36 F-16 Block 52 multi-role fighters to the Iraq Air Force. The administration had also approved the export of 24 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to Baghdad.

“There are several things we’ve been waiting for the Iraqis to do, including meeting their payment schedule,” the official said.

Officials also cited delays in U.S. training of Iraqi pilots for both the F-16 and Apache.

At least four Iraq Army divisions have also been dismantled amid the ISIL campaign.

The U.S. suspension of aircraft has strained relations with Baghdad. The government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has long accused Washington of dragging its feet in meeting U.S. delivery schedules.

“This was a chapter we could have prevented,” Iraqi ambassador to Washington, Lukman Faily, said. “It was stuck in Congress, and it was stuck in the White House, and that delay has had an adverse impact on us. Even if we pay the bills now the pilots are not in place.”

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