“General Zebari suggested that the MOD (Ministry of Defense) will be unable to execute the full spectrum of external-defense missions until sometime between 2020 and 2024, citing … funding shortfalls as the main reason for the delay,” said the report from the U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR).

Zebari said the air force would not be able to defend Iraqi airspace until 2020 and is not capable of supporting ground combat operations, citing a long-delayed deal to buy F-16 warplanes from the United States, the SIGIR report said.

“An army without an air force is exposed,” the report quoted Zebari as saying.

Iraq delayed its purchase of F-16s earlier this year to divert money to social programs.