Operations in Iraq: About the UK mission in Iraq

UK military support operations in Iraq continue to be conducted under the name 'Operation TELIC'.

What are British forces doing in Iraq?

British Armed Forces are helping the Iraqis to rebuild their country after years of neglect and conflict.

Royal Navy personnel, alongside US colleagues, are continuing to play a crucial role in training the Iraqi Navy, a task they have been engaged in since 2004.

Iraq's ability to rebuild its infrastructure and services after decades of neglect is heavily dependent on income from oil exports. And so it is vital that the Iraqi Navy develops the capability to protect their own territorial waters and offshore oil platforms from which 80% of their oil is exported.

The Iraqi Navy continues to develop well and now has responsibility for the vast majority of Iraqi territorial waters, playing a central role in protecting Iraqi oil export platforms in the Northern Gulf.

The Royal Navy remains on course to complete their contribution to the Training and Maritime Support mission by spring 2011.

We also continue to assist the Iraqi Ministry of Defence with the professionalisation of its Armed Forces as part of a wider NATO mission in Iraq.

The UK has the lead for officer education and training whereby British mentors are providing training and advice to the Iraqi Security Forces.

This mentoring is not only focused on developing the capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces but is also helping to develop Iraqi training structures and institutions, so that in the future Iraq can sustain its security forces and continue to meet the security needs of the Iraqi people.

When did the UK cease combat operations in Iraq?

UK combat operations were declared complete on 30 April 2009 and all UK combat forces were withdrawn from the country prior to 31 July 2009.

This was a fundamental change of mission that was agreed by the Iraqi and UK governments.

Under what legal basis do British forces remain in Iraq?

British forces remain in Iraq at the invitation of the Government of Iraq. The legal basis for our presence is provided by two separate agreements: the bilateral UK-Iraq Training and Maritime Support Agreement and the multilateral NATO Long Term Agreement.

Royal Navy personnel training the Iraqi Navy and helping to protect Iraq's maritime infrastructure operate under the Training and Maritime Support Agreement which was signed by the UK and Iraqi governments on 6 June 2009. This agreement entered into force on 22 November 2009 having been ratified by both the UK and Iraqi Parliaments.

The Training and Maritime Support Agreement had a duration of one year and had been due to expire on 22 November 2010. However, on 9 November 2010, the Iraqi Council of Ministers requested that our Royal Navy trainers continue their work under the Training and Maritime Support Agreement.

The UK Government agreed to this request and as such the Royal Navy remains in Iraq to complete their contribution to the mission, most likely by spring next year.

Once the government in Iraq is fully formed and functioning, we expect the Council of Ministers decision to be ratified by the Council of Representatives.

British forces operating within NATO's Training Mission in Iraq (NTM-I) operate under a separate Long Term Agreement between the Government of Iraq and NATO.

How long will British forces stay in Iraq?

We expect that the Royal Navy will have completed their contribution to the Training and Maritime Support mission by spring 2011.

The Long Term Agreement that NATO has with Iraq is due to expire in December 2011. Work is underway to establish the future of the NATO mission beyond December 2011 but it is too early to determine what this might be, or how the UK might contribute.

The UK and Iraq share a long history of defence cooperation and our partnership will continue to take on new dimensions. This partnership will be strengthened through cooperation in a range of areas including economic development, culture, commerce and education, as well as defence.

Security in Iraq

The Government of Iraq has been responsible for maintaining security throughout Iraq since the expiry of UNSCR 1790 on 31 December 2008, when US and UK military personnel focused on mentoring and supporting the Iraqi Security Forces.

Today, violence is at its lowest level since 2003 and US forces have been able to end combat operations in Iraq, as we did in 2009. US force numbers were reduced to around 50,000 at the end of August 2010 and under Operation New Dawn the US plan to further reduce their presence in Iraq to an Office of Security Cooperation by the end of 2011.

Whilst still capable of appalling atrocities, Al Qaeda in Iraq has suffered repeated setbacks and indiscriminate terrorist attacks have lost it any sympathy it once enjoyed amongst some Iraqi communities.

This reflects the success of the UK and partner forces in training Iraqi troops to be able to deliver security on the streets, thereby allowing the Iraqi authorities to focus on tackling the key social challenges.

Over half-a-million Iraqi police and military personnel have been trained and equipped by Coalition forces since 2004. The Coalition has also worked very closely with the Iraqi authorities to develop their Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Interior.

The Iraqi Police Service has made significant progress in its capability to maintain public order, investigate crimes and arrest suspects. The number of Iraqi units capable of conducting independent counter-insurgency operations is increasing steadily. There are now around 270,000 police officers trained and equipped nationwide, plus some 40,000 border enforcement personnel.

Security in Basra

Security is no longer the biggest concern for ordinary Basrawis. In a poll, they put security 15th on their list of issues of concern - well below issues such as employment, public utilities and corruption.

Peaceful Provincial Elections in January 2009 were followed by successful National Elections in March 2010, which further underlined the move away from violence towards the ballot box, in Basra, and across the country.

This progress is vindication for the long-term strategy that we have pursued with our Iraqi partners.

When the Iraqi authorities took on responsibility for security in Basra in 2009 they began to deliver an Iraqi-led security solution which has proved to be so successful. General Petraeus, who personally approved the strategy, said at the time that it was 'a positive step on the path to Iraqi self-reliance'.

What British Forces have achieved

British Forces have been concentrated in southern Iraq. Their key military tasks have been:

Security Force Training: UK troops based in the south of Iraq trained over 22,000 policemen and 20,000 Iraqi soldiers between 2004 and 2009; first as part of building up 10th Iraqi Army Division in south-eastern Iraq and, after 2007, training 14th Division in Basra.

Basra International Airport: We have also worked closely with the Iraqi civilian authorities to develop Basra International Airport which will be key to the ongoing economic development of Basra and southern Iraq.

The airport handles some 4,000 passengers a month and is able to cope with significant surges; in December 2008 it proved itself able to handle around 5,000 pilgrims during the Hajj. Scheduled commercial services operate routinely to Baghdad, Jordan and the Gulf States.

The RAF was able formally to hand over control of the airport to the Iraqis on 1 January 2009, the same date as Iraq took back control of its sovereign airspace.

Naval Training: For the past six years British forces have been involved in rebuilding the Iraqi Navy. This work continues today under the auspices of the Training and Maritime Support Agreement that we have with Iraq. Royal Navy ships also continue to patrol the Gulf area and to contribute to the defence of Iraqi territorial waters and oil platforms. The main accomplishments of British forces are listed below:

  • Around 100 Royal Navy personnel are based at the main Iraqi naval base in the southern port of Umm Qasr.
  • The Royal Navy are working alongside US colleagues to train and mentor the Iraqi Navy, building up expertise and developing skills that will help the Iraqi Navy develop into a fully independent force, able to carry out its crucial role of protecting Iraq's territorial waters and maritime infrastructure.
  • The Iraqi Navy has noticeably improved its operational capability, generating more frontline presence in Iraqi waters than before.
  • Iraq's maritime security forces are most likely to be the first of all of Iraq's defence forces to be fully mission-capable, as a direct result of the Royal Navy's endeavours.
  • Given the total destruction of the Iraqi Navy under the previous regime, rebuilding it since 2004 has been no small feat. The Royal Navy are making a significant contribution to stability in Iraq.

Officer Training: The UK has been supporting the NATO Training Mission –Iraq (NTM-I) since 2004. Today the UK provides a quarter of the 175 personnel from 14 different nations working within NTM-I. British mentors are providing training and advice to the Iraqi Security Forces in order to contribute to the development of Iraqi training structures and institutions, so that Iraq can continue to build effective, sustainable and self-sufficient security forces in the long term. The main accomplishments of British forces are listed below:

  • Around 40 members of the British Armed Forces are working throughout the Baghdad Area of Operations providing advice, mentoring, training and support to the Iraqi Security Forces.
  • The UK has concentrated its effort in the training of the Iraqi officer corps, although it also contributes to NCO training, doctrine development and the Strategic Security Advisory & Mentoring Division (SSAMD), as well as a number of key leadership and supporting roles within the mission.
  • UK forces are helping Iraq to develop a self-sustaining, capable and properly governed officer education and training system with which to develop a professional officer corps.
  • In particular, investment in the development of young Iraqi officers, through high-end professional education and training, will reap long-term benefits for the Iraqi Security Forces, ensuring a better future for the nation.
  • British mentors are providing specialist advice to the Iraqi leadership responsible for Iraqi officer training and education institutions within the National Defence University. They are also undertaking other activities to broaden Iraqi understanding of the needs of a modern professional officer corps. These include facilitating overseas training opportunities to similar officer training institutions within the region and more widely.
  • The Iraqi military will also accrue long term benefits through developing English Language competence amongst the officer cohort allowing Iraqi officers to engage meaningfully with the wider international military community.

UK Based Training: We also continue to offer places for Iraqi officers at UK-based defence training establishments; for example, young Iraqi officers have recently graduated with distinction from RAF Cranwell.

The Sacrifice of British Troops in Iraq

Between the start of operations in 2003 and 2009, 178 UK Service personnel and one MOD civilian have died on Operation Telic. We pay tribute to the sacrifice they made in service of their country, and to their family and friends. Iraq's progress shows that their sacrifice has not been in vain.

All UK personnel that were killed during Operation TELIC are commemorated by a plaque inscribed with their name on the Basra Memorial Wall, which now stands at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. The wall was rededicated in a poignant service on 11 March 2010. The wall was originally constructed by UK forces outside the Multi-National Division South East Headquarters in Basra, to commemorate all UK and Coalition personnel that had died whilst under UK command in southern Iraq. The wall was dismantled at the end of UK combat operations in April 2009 and was shipped back to the UK to be reassembled at the National Arboretum.

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