In Iraq until at least 2006, theres a suprise.

Thursday March 24, 08:43 AM

British troops to stay in Iraq until 2006

MPs have revealed that Britain's 8,000 troops serving in Iraq will not pull out until next year.

An influential House of Commons committee said the coalition had not prepared properly for the insurgency after Saddam Hussein was ousted.

It warned Iraq's security forces would not be able to take over until 2006 at the earliest and British troop levels could not be reduced until then.

The Commons' defence committee has carried out a wide-ranging assessment of operations in Iraq since Saddam was toppled in 2003.

The committee said early planning by the coalition - including British forces - had been marred by "a series of mistakes and misjudgment".

It said the coalition was insufficiently prepared for the insurgency. It said the coalition should have foreseen that its presence would be resented by some Iraqis, who would see the invasion as "cultural and economic imperialism".

The report said the coalition also underestimated the scale of the insurgency, and failed to foresee the influx of foreign fighters or shore up border security to stop them getting into Iraq.

The committee said January's elections were a "turning point" for Iraq, showing its people wanted democracy. It had been hoped successful elections would deal a major blow to the insurgents. But deadly attacks have continued.

The report said reforms to Iraq's security forces should have been given greater priority before and immediately after the invasion.

The report said the coalition's early efforts at reforming the security forces were characterised by "short-termism and indecision".

"Weaknesses in that reform programme came close to undermining the success of the initial military operations," it said.

Overall it says the coalition did not plan in advance for the scale of the reconstruction task it faced. That was compounded by the subsequent failure to make adequate preparations for the management of the reconstruction effort following the handover of authority from the Coalition Provisional Authority in June 2004.

British forces were therefore asked to manage a range of tasks beyond what should normally be expected of military organisations.

The committee concluded that the Iraqi government would want British troops to stay until its own security forces were ready to take over.

"This may be a substantial period of time. In light of the state of the insurgency and the condition of the Iraqi security seems likely that British forces will be present in Iraq in broadly similar numbers to the current deployment into 2006.

"We support this commitment and believe that calls for a withdrawal of British forces are premature. Experience has taught us that if nation-building exercises, such as that in Iraq, are to succeed, they must have a serious commitment of time, energy, financial resources and political resolve."

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