Royal Navy advisor: Iraqi Navy not capable of protecting oil until end of 2010.
The Iraqi Navy will not be able to take full responsibility for counterinsurgency operations to guard Iraq’s oil infrastructure until the end of 2010 at the earliest, according to a Royal Navy advisor.
Captain Paul Abrahams is the director of the maritime strategic transition team and the senior advisor to the Iraqi Navy. Speaking at a bloggers round table run by the US Department of Defense, he said the Iraqi Navy was making encouraging progress but conceded that challenges still remained. It means that coalition naval support will be necessary for months to come.
In a statement to the House of Commons yesterday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said developing the Iraqi Navy was “critical to Iraqâ€™s economic future”, and one of the key tasks remaining for British forces in Iraq. But Abrahams said convincing the Iraqi Ministry of Defence of the navy’s importance in securing Iraq’s offshore oil platforms was still a stumbling block:
“I think one of the biggest challenges is just getting the Iraqi Ministry of Defense to realise how important it is to build their navy…they are very much land focused, because that’s where most of the fight has been; so that’s where they’ve put their main efforts. And then naturally in Iraq it is a land-focused country. The coastline is very small.”
Abrahams also admitted months of wrangling over contracts meant new vessels, long in the pipeline, were only now under construction, and he said it was difficult to train personnel when they were conducting operations at the same time.
The coalition would have to perform a strategic overwatch role until at least 2018, he added, as the Iraqi Navy “won’t be able to defend themselves against a state aggressor”.
But Abrahams pointed to significant progress, citing the successful action to seize control of the ports of Umm Qasr and Azerbia in March, and the ability to undertake 42 patrols every week – a three hundred per cent increase over the last 12 months.
He’s convinced that the Iraqis are capable of producing a fully functioning Navy:
“They’re committed, they’re very keen to be trained, they’re hungry for the knowledge we can pass onto them…the head of the Iraqi navy, Admiral Mohammed Jawad, is very open to ideas. He’s very forward leaning. He wants his navy to be good.”