BAGHDAD, May 20 (UPI) -- Iraq's plans to outfit its military forces with new equipment by the time U.S. troops withdraw in 2012 are in peril because of low oil prices, officials say.
Baghdad is facing a budget crunch because of the continuing depressed world oil market, which is robbing the country of funds needed to buy the aircraft and ships it will need to defend itself from external threats, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Lack of funds is also preventing Iraq from properly maintaining the U.S. equipment it already has and is hindering the armed forces from moving to fight corruption, ineffective management and political interference within its ranks, U.S. officials say.
"The budget crisis is going to degrade the rate at which Iraqis will be able to develop their capabilities," Lt. Gen. Frank G. Helmick, who supervises the training and equipment of the Iraqi security forces, told the Post. "We're in a situation that the Iraqis have not had to face. They can't pay for it, and we don't have the money to pay for it."
With oil prices at $58 per barrel, Iraq's defense and interior ministries will reportedly have only half of what each were counting on.