On a warm morning over calm waters, the horizon is lined with small fishing boats. A Kuwaiti coast guard cutter discovers an Iraqi fisherman operating illegally in Kuwait’s territorial waters and the crew detains him. The Iraqi navy arrives to take custody of the apprehended fisherman and return him to friendlier seas.
That was the scenario played out by a joint training exercise of the Iraqi navy and Kuwaiti coast guard in the Persian Gulf, July 25.
This and other exercises conducted since 2008 are the legacy of the Khawr Abd Allah Protocol, an agreement signed between Kuwait and Iraq to ensure the security of territorial waters in the Gulf.
U.S. Navy sailors with Iraqi Training and Advisory Mission-Navy in Umm Qasr have been hard at work training their Iraqi navy counterparts to be seaworthy.
Until recently, the Iraqi training had been planned and coordinated by ITAM-N. This exercise was the first entirely orchestrated by Iraqi and Kuwaiti forces, while the U.S. Navy were merely observers, said Lt. Cmdr. Aaron Hoff, U.S. liaison to the Kuwaiti coast guard, who watched with ITAM-N operations officers from aboard the deck of an Iraqi patrol boat.
“We’re here for moral support or in case they have any questions,” said Hoff.
Hoff said exercises like this are the fruit of an effort by ITAM-N to prepare Iraqi sailors and promote cooperation across the sea and land with Kuwait. The exercise outlines a common problem with illegal fishing that faces Iraq and Kuwait, he added.
The exercise started with an officer exchange and planning meeting aboard the Iraqi patrol boat, called a swift boat. Defenders, small watercraft that accompany patrols, acted the part of the illegally fishing vessels to be apprehended by the Kuwaiti coast guard.
After the first arrest and subsequent surrender of the “fisherman” to the Iraqi navy, the two forces reversed roles. The Defenders surrounded a Kuwaiti vessel acting out the illicit fishing operation and delivered the culprits to the awaiting custody of the Kuwaiti coast guard.
Each year, the Iraqi and Kuwaiti forces plan to do more cooperative practice runs, including border meetings of officials from both nations, said Hoff.
“It’s the culmination of years of effort to encourage the Iraqi navy and Kuwaiti coast guard to improve their operability,” said Hoff. “It’s a victory.”
Story by Pvt. Andrew Slovensky