'British Troops Face Backlash from U.S. Fallujah Assault'

Sat 16 Oct 2004 5:36pm (UK)
'British Troops Face Backlash from U.S. Fallujah Assault'

By Gavin Cordon, Whitehall Editor, PA News

Tony Blair was today warned that British troops in Iraq could face a dangerous backlash if US attempts to seize the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah ended in mass bloodshed.

As British commanders considered a request from the US to deploy UK troops for first time in the American-controlled sector, the Tories said that they must not be sent simply as a “political gesture” to Washington.

It is understood that the Americans want a British battalion to “back fill” for them in the area around Baghdad, releasing US forces to join the expected assault on Fallujah.

In Fallujah itself, a delegation offered to resume peace talks with the interim Iraqi government if the Americans ceased their attacks.

The city, in the notorious “Sunni triangle”, is believed to be the stronghold of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s Tawhid wal Jihad group which killed the British hostage Kenneth Bigley.

Although the Ministry of Defence has ruled out British forces joining any Fallujah attack, shadow defence secretary Nicholas Soames said UK commanders must be fully involved in the planning as British troops could still face reprisals if it went wrong.

“The concept of peacekeeping is one that is alien to our American friends. They don’t use the same tactics as we do and that is their business,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“We need to be very careful that we have a very major say, in my view, in the planning for this upcoming counter-insurgency operation which is clearly going to be a very big one.

“At the end of the day our soldiers – a large number of them in Basra – will be amongst those who will pick up the bill if it goes wrong.

“We do need to do more in my view to make sure that the rather supine impression that is given of the Americans ordering everything to happen and we just follow along needs to end.”

His comments were echoed by former foreign secretary Robin Cook who warned that if British troops were deployed in the US sector they could find themselves associated with the more aggressive tactics used by the Americans.

“For a year Britain has been trying in vain to persuade US forces to show the same restraint as our troops, who have won a lot of local goodwill as a result,” he told PA News.

“The real risk of sending a British battalion into the US sector is that our troops could become associated in Iraqi minds with US methods.

“The last time US forces attacked Fallujah they left 1,000 civilians dead and uproar across Iraq at their heavy handed tactics.

“There is a danger that if Britain frees up US forces for the next assault we may be held equally responsible by Iraqis for what happens to the residents of Fallujah.”

Reports have suggested that the Americans want the British to fill in for them in the town of Iskandariya, 25 miles south of Baghdad, releasing the 24th Marine Expeditionary Force for other operations.

The most likely candidates for the role are thought to be the Black Watch who are currently the designated reserve battalion in the British controlled-southern sector.

It would mean placing them under direct US command for the duration of the operation.

Mr Soames said that he had no objections to British forces serving under US command, but he said that they should not be sent simply as a gesture to Washington ahead of the presidential elections.

“We need to watch the timing of all this and be careful that this isn’t just being used as a kind of political gesture to reassure the Americans of Prime Minister Blair’s support for the American efforts,” he told the Today programme.

Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Paul Keetch said that the Government needed to make a Commons statement, explaining what role British forces would be expected to carry out under US command.

“What will be the command structure and what input will British commanders have in the selection of tasks our troops will be asked to undertake ?” he said.

“The Government must explain to Parliament, the British people and the British Army what its intentions are.”

This article is a bunch of crap! The US Army and Marines have been fighting
foreign fighters, Saddam die hards and Iranian backed al Sadr forces. The minority Sunni's are resisting the transition of Iraq to a democracy from a dictatorship. Falluja has become a base for insurgents to launch attacks upon Baghdad and US supply convoys. We killed over a 1000 the last time we tried to go in there. This time the dogs will not be called off. Al Sadr's militia is on the sidelines so the UK sector should be just fine. The residents of Falluja have been providing alot of intel on the location of foreign fighters hence we have been able to conduct pin point strikes against their locations. A majority of Sunni's are coming around to the belief that they need to quit fighting and join the political process. If the elections in jan. are to have a chance the Sunni towns need to be brought to heel and thats whats going on right now.

New Posts

Latest Threads