Friday, April 17, 2009
The withdrawal of British combat troops from Iraq has already begun and by 31 July 2009 the vast bulk of British Armed Forces will have all left the country. Except that is, a small group of Royal Naval personnel.
The naval personnel will be staying in southern Iraq to train the fledgling Iraqi Navy who have a task essential to the country's future economic development; protecting the country's oil network and main port of Umm Qasr.
The port of Umm Qasr is gradually growing into a thriving area of commerce as it fulfils its role as Iraq's only deepwater quay facility.
The port operates 24-hours-a-day and hundreds of containers are being shipped from the area with thousands of trucks daily coming in and out of the port area. Located close to the Kuwaiti border, Umm Qasr receives 80 per cent of the country's imports.
The port is therefore also home to the Iraqi Navy which as well as protecting the port traffic has the vital role of protecting the country's two oil terminals out in the Gulf. These generate around 90 per cent of Iraq's income.
British troops are currently based at two camps in Umm Qasr. One of the two sites will be handed over to the Americans at the end of this month, but UK military personnel are likely to remain at the second camp until at least 2011 where a British-led Naval Training Team, currently consisting of 55 British and 25 US personnel, will continue its work mentoring the Iraqi Navy.