Getting the Iraqi army ready to fight has been a pretty thankless task for American troops. Maybe they'll have better luck with the Iraq's navy."The United States is planning to hand responsibility for securing two major oil platforms back to Iraqi forces by years end," Defense Daily reports.
But before the nascent Iraqi navy can handle the job of protecting the facilities, he added, it will need new equipment and additional training... Vice Adm. David Nichols, the commander of the 5th Fleet and head of Naval Forces Central Command, told reporters in a videoconference yesterday...An April 2004 suicide boat attack on the Al Basrah and Khawr Al Amaya oil platforms off the coast of Iraq claimed the lives of two U.S. sailors and one Coast Guardsman and caused the loss of hundreds thousands of barrels of oil production... Following the attack, the U.S. military took over responsibility for guarding the terminals from Iraqi forces...The security handover on the oil terminals, Nichols said, is "probably going to occur late this year, assuming the conditions are right."According to Nichols, the training and equipping of the Iraqi navy has been a "relatively good news story." The U.K. Royal Navy has taken the lead in training Iraqi patrol boat crews and integrating the vessels into coalition maritime security operations.Training a new Iraqi navy, Nichols acknowledged, is a far less daunting task than standing up a new Iraqi army and police, an effort being led by Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus. The Iraqi navy has only about 800 personnel, and about a half dozen patrol boats, along with smaller craft vessels used in inland waterways."Given the size of the Iraqi navy, its a relatively easier and more straightforward issue than Dave Petraeus has with the significantly larger Iraqi army force," Nichols said.The Iraqis are building some additional patrol boats, and while Nichols said their navy does not have any "grandiose plans" for acquisition [buying new ships], it could use some logistics support ships to provide refueling and maintenance services for some of these smaller boats.Nichols said there had been no additional attacks on Iraqs sea oil terminals since the April 2004 incident, but added: "We know through intelligence that the terrorists have notional plans, desire, to attack targets in the maritime environment, including key oil infrastructure."