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Poodles
09-30-2005, 07:29 PM
Sun 25 Sep 2005




Scrap Basra police and start again orders MoD

BRIAN BRADY
WESTMINSTER EDITOR


DEFENCE Secretary John Reid is planning to scrap the 25,000-strong police force in southern Iraq and replace it with a new military-style unit capable of maintaining law and order.

Reid ordered a root-and-branch review of security in the troubled province following last week's disastrous clashes between British troops and Iraqi police.


The violence has also led to the scrapping of a detailed plan that could have seen UK forces withdrawn by May next year. Instead, it now seems certain Prime Minister Tony Blair will have to keep British troops in the country until 2007 at the earliest.

The sudden U-turn on Britain's military commitment to Iraq has caused anger and despair in military circles. One former defence chief told Scotland on Sunday the Iraq expedition had been a "colossal political failure".

In comments that will pile pressure on Blair over his handling of the conflict, General Anthony Walker, a former Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, told Scotland on Sunday: "The soldiers should have said to the politicians 'f*** this, we are not going into this conflict until you tell us how you are going to deal with this country once we have won you the war'.

"But they didn't, and it now looks as though we will be there a lot longer than we planned."

The dramatic events in Basra last week, when British troops attempted to rescue two SAS men from an Iraqi jail and were confronted by angry local police and protesters, have forced an urgent rethink.

There was a further setback yesterday in attempts to restore normal relations between the British military and Basra city officials when it emerged an Iraqi judge had ordered the arrest of the two special forces soldiers who sparked the incident. The original withdrawal plans foresaw a reduction in the British military presence in two of the four UK-controlled provinces in southern Iraq - Maysan and al-Muthanna - by the end of this year. The handover would have been completed next spring with the withdrawal from Basra and Dhi Qar and the departure of the last of Britain's 8,000-plus troops.

But the general decline in security, and the disclosure that many members of the Basra police force owe allegiances to rival militia leaders, has sent UK planning back to the drawing board.

MoD officials fear the only lasting solution to the infiltration may be the creation of a new military police force, uncontaminated by external influences. Creating the new force - which would wear combat uniforms and be trained in military tactics - could take over a year.

British officials are insistent that from now on members of the existing police force who are retained - as well as members of any other Iraqi force - are rigorously checked for any allegiances to tribal, family or religious elements that could compromise their loyalty to the new Iraq.

Ministers are also believed to have ordered a boost to the military intelligence operation on the ground in Iraq to ensure that they are not caught by surprise by further violence.

"The British could not reasonably have been expected to have prevented external elements patronising parts of the police force," said Jonathan Lindley, a Middle East expert at the international affairs think-tank, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). "But they could have done more to prevent specific external elements and individuals from gaining influence within the new police service. To have done so would not have been difficult."

The violence in Basra has scuppered a detailed plan that was aimed at getting all British troops out in as little as eight months. Reports from Japan yesterday claimed the British and Australians had recently indicated they intended to move out their military presence in Iraq - which numbers almost 10,000 troops - by next May.

Experts in the UK last night confirmed that any plans for a 'draw-down' of British forces had been pushed on to the back-burner. One military insider told Scotland on Sunday: "Senior army people I know were out in Iraq recently making arrangements for an early withdrawal, starting with two of the four provinces by the end of this year. It is a fact that the MoD were in the advanced stages of preparing for that, but there is now no way they can do it."

A 10-strong team of military officers and officials from the MoD had been in the British zone since early spring, liaising with British military commanders on the ground and local Iraqis, with a view to preparing the ground for withdrawal.

The Prime Minister is expected to face pressure over Iraq at the Labour conference in Brighton this week, although party managers expect to keep dissent on the margins of the conference arena.

Blair's spokesman said: "He will address Iraq in his speech.

What we aren't going to do is put a timetable on an exit strategy, but [talk about] a process of democratisation and the development of a security capability under which we can begin a draw-down. We don't want to be there any longer than we want to be there or the Iraqis themselves want us."

US President George Bush warned last week that an early withdrawal would "repeat the costly mistakes of the past that led to the attacks of September 11, 2001".

A poll last night suggested most people want British troops to pull out of Iraq. Some 57% said British forces should pull out, 27% said they should not, and 16% questioned in the Five News poll did not know. YouGov asked 1,928 people between September 21 and 22 for the poll.


Delivery formats for "Scotland on Sunday"

Lyn Is Snide
09-30-2005, 07:36 PM
US President George Bush warned last week that an early withdrawal would "repeat the costly mistakes of the past that led to the attacks of September 11, 2001". :wtf