Coalition Working to Increase Iraqi Navy's Capability
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 22, 2005 U.S. and coalition maritime forces in the northern Persian Gulf are working to develop the fledgling Iraqi navy and bring it to a level where it can sustain itself, a U.S. commander in the area said today.
In a news briefing live from Bahrain, Navy Vice Adm. David C. Nichols Jr., commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and U.S. 5th Fleet, said the Iraqi navy, though small, is already integrated into maritime security operations in the gulf.
"Because the Iraqis know the lay of the land and understand what they're looking at up there a lot better than we do, they've been very helpful there," Nichols said.
The Iraqi navy has six patrol boats, 700 sailors and about 400 marines, Nichols said. Iraqi sailors are already aboard oil platforms helping with security and, by November, will provide most of the security on the platforms, he added.
Progress has been made with the Iraqi navy, but much work still needs to be done, Nichols said. Specifically, logistics and sustainment operations need to be improved to make the Iraqis self-sufficient, he said. This will be a gradual process, he said and added that he anticipates maintaining a U.S. presence in the area for some time.
"We're going to be involved in maritime security (operations) in the northern gulf for a while," he said.
U.S. maritime forces in the gulf have been successfully setting the conditions for security and stability in the region, Nichols said. Experience of the past few years indicates the maritime environment is not being routinely used to move terrorists or terrorist-related equipment, he said.
Forty-five ships and 15 maritime control airplanes operate in the area, Nichols said. One-third of those ships are non-U.S. and are grouped under three different coalition commanders. The coalition in the area includes the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, Italy and Pakistan.