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On the Ground: Meetings Pave Way for Continued Progress in Iraq

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2009 – Key meetings this week helped to pave the way for the Iraqi navy to assume security responsibility for an offshore oil platform and for the Iraqi government to manage its foreign military sales program effectively.

Iraqi navy leaders and their Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq partners met in Baghdad on Feb. 17 to go over plans for the orderly transition of the Khwar Al Amaya oil terminal to Iraqi control.

Officials said the Khwar Al Amaya terminal and the nearby Basra terminal handle 75 percent of Iraq’s oil exports, and therefore are critical to Iraq's future. The platforms are key enemy targets; coalition forces repelled an attack on the Basra terminal in 2004.

Rear Adm. Muaffaq, deputy chief of the Iraqi navy, and Commodore Adele, chief of staff, represented the Iraqi navy at the meeting.

"We are aware of the region and our neighbors," Muaffaq said. "We look forward to protecting our nation once again."

British Royal Navy Capt. Nick Hine, director of the coalition naval training team in Umm Qasr, noted that Iraqis had protected the terminals before the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

"Obviously, you were doing the job long before we got here,” he told the Iraqi representatives at the meeting. “If we are suggesting something that you know will not work, please tell us. We're here to help you prepare for the transition."

Today, the Iraqi navy and coalition forces are working together to protect the platforms. By the end of the year, the Iraqi navy will take full responsibility for the Khwar Al Amaya terminal.

The Iraqi navy is preparing to take the lead by taking delivery of new fast-attack boats and patrol vessels and by building a new $45 million pier and seawall at Umm Qasr.

Also this week, Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq's security assistance office hosted representatives from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, U.S. Army Security Assistance Command, the Navy International Program Office and the Iraqi government for a financial management review of the Iraqi foreign military sales program.

The Iraqi government has spent more than $5 billion to buy military equipment, supplies and training from the United States through the program, officials said.

"We've been trying for three years to make this happen, and this is the first time that we all have been able to meet," said Army Lt. Col. Joe Lontos, DSCA’s Iraq program manager. "During this five-day review, we looked at FMS cases with the Iraqi financial managers so they can see how things are progressing. It also gives the Iraqis a chance to voice their concerns and make changes to their program if they need to."

About 20 members of the Iraqi Defense Ministry, representing the Iraqi army, navy and air force programs and budgeting offices, as well as representatives of the Iraqi Interior Ministry took part in the financial review.

John Moseley of DSCA said he sees the foreign military sales program as a way to strengthen the ties between the United States and Iraq.

"When a country buys billions of dollars worth of equipment from you, it signals a commitment to a long-term relationship," he said. "This relationship is good for both nations and helps to bring stability to the region."

Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq’s deputy commander for security assistance said the meeting bodes well for the future relationship between the United States and Iraq.

"The close partnership between Iraq and the United States will, in large measure, be etched into the future through a collaborative approach to fielding and sustaining major systems and in focusing on the critical training associated with that equipment,” Army Brig. Gen. Charles Luckey said. “The interoperability between U.S. and Iraqi equipment will, in the long run, give each nation a wide variety of combined training opportunities. This conference is a long stride on the road we walk together."

(Compiled from Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq news releases.)

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