The United States plans to sell Iraq 18 more F-16 fighter jets as Baghdad seeks to secure its airspace after the full withdrawal of US forces this month, a US official said Monday.
"Today the administration notified Congress of its intent to sell Iraq a second tranche of 18 F-16s," said National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.
"This sale is another indication of the continuing US-Iraqi security relationship and cooperation," Vietor said after President Barack Obama met Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki at the White House.
"It also illustrates the progress Iraq has made in providing for its own security, and its determination to protect its sovereignty and independence."
Iraq signed a deal to buy an initial tranche of 18 warplanes earlier this year after Maliki said he wanted to equip Iraq's air force with a total of 36 of the jets in a multi-billion dollar deal.
Obama said that the United States would train pilots for the planes, as an example of the close military cooperation Washington intends to maintain with Baghdad even after the final US troops leave the country later this month.
"We will be working to set up effective military-to-military ties that are no different from the ties that we have with countries throughout the region and around the world," said Obama.
"We've got to train their pilots and make sure that they're up and running and that we have (an) effective Iraqi air force."
The F-16, manufactured by Lockheed Martin, is one of the most widely used fighter jets in the world and has been exported to over 20 countries.
by Stephen Collinson
© 2011 AFP