U.S. worries Oil Police behind on Iraqi security build up

by Alice Fordham

Published March 31, 2010

BAGHDAD - Iraq's Oil Police, tasked with securing much of the country's oil infrastructure and cracking down on crude and fuel smuggling, conduct their crucial job while lacking the equipment and staff, especially when compared with other key security forces.

The top U.S. military official in charge of training Iraqi security forces warned the Oil Police "are less well equipped" than other federal forces.

Maj. Gen. Richard Rowe, director of the U.S. Iraq Training and Advisory Mission. (Source: iraq.centcom.mil)

Maj. Gen. Richard Rowe, Director of the Iraq Training and Advisory Mission, told Iraq Oil Report "they need mobility and heavy equipment, they are depending on Iraqi battalions for transport along pipelines. They need to grow by 10,000 to replace the Iraqi Army they're relying on."

The head of Iraq's Oil Police doesn't disagree with Rowe's assessment, though he's long touted the ability to do his best with an under-funded outfit.

American forces, which are scheduled to drop from more than 90,000 to 50,000 by the end of August, are racing to bolster Iraq's varied security forces before the final foreign troop is scheduled to leave by the end of 2011.

It's a deadline which meeting is not assured. Swaths of Iraqi security forces in various ministries suffer with political and militia infiltration. "Corruption is an enemy of Iraq," said Rowe, adding that, "there has been significant concern as to loyalty of forces."

Forces also suffer, he said, from lack of equipment, organization and intelligence sharing. Not all have as much shoulder-to-shoulder training with U.S. forces as the Iraqi army, which is being touted as the best way to quickly boost capacity.

Maj. Gen. Hamid Abdullah Ibrahim, head of Iraq's Oil Police (right) shows security officials a recently discovered smuggling operation. (BEN LANDO/Iraq Oil Report)

While the navy, air force and army receive higher profile training and more money for equipment, a new directorate within the Interior Minister – the Oil Police – have perhaps one of the most important tasks: keeping safe the tens of billions of dollars worth of oil that Iraq sends to market each year. Oil revenue is 95 percent of all state income.

The Oil Police don't have sole jurisdiction over the oil sector, which is divided up between security forces within the ministries of oil, defense and interior. For example, the Iraqi Army guards a stretch of the northern export pipeline while Oil Police hunt down smugglers tapping into the pipeline in the south.

Balance of article . . . .