Iraqi general claims British troops allow insurgents to rule

#1
From last Saturday's Telegraph

Iraq's senior general in the south of country has given a damning assessment of Britain's policy in Basra claiming it allowed insurgents to rule the city for five years "without being punished or held to account".

By Thomas Harding in Basra
Last Updated: 12:28AM GMT 22 Nov 2008

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Major Gen Mohammed Jawad Humeidi said it was too soon for UK forces to be pulled out and called for the Americans to step in.

He also criticised the lack of support from British forces during the early days of the decisive Charge of Knights operation when the Iraqi army defeated Basra's Jaish al Mahdi (JAM) insurgents.

The officer suggested too that he would be content to see the British replaced by American troops when they withdraw from southern Iraq in the coming months.

In an interview at the newly opened Basra Operations Centre from which the Iraqi army and police will control the city, Gen Mohammed had little praise for the British presence in Basra since 2003.

While the Iraqis have an excellent working relationship with the British Army and are grateful for the superior military training they received, Gen Mohammed was openly critical of how JAM was able to take key positions at all levels of government.

"When we got to stage where JAM was controlling all the civilian directorates then you weren't really in a position to fight JAM anymore.

"I don't for any minute want to knock Allied forces who have done a lot for us but I must stress in the end Iraqi forces decided to grip it, took the hard choices, entered the battle and won it."

Asked if British forces could have done more over the last five years Gen Mohammed said: "I think you should ask the coalition forces that question."

Senior officers have said they have always been handicapped in Basra by a lack of numbers to do job properly, a lack of political will to take risks to tackle the insurgents and disinterest from both the Foreign Office and Department for International Development.

"We had to rebuild the Iraqi army from scratch but we were let down by other Government agencies who allowed the militias to take the civilian positions," a Ministry of Defence source said.


When Iraqi forces pushed into the city in their spring offensive Gen Mohammed said it was very difficult because JAM "had ruled Basra for five years without being punished or held to account" and were in charge of ports, oil, electricity and government agencies that gave them cash to buy weapons.

The general reinforced the view held by some American officers that the British dithered over taking action at the start of the battle for Basra.

"Charge of the Knights was extremely hard in the first days because there were no UK force elements present. We fought on our own for a week without any support from anyone. But after that British forces intervened decisively, likewise American."

The Iraqi officer, who was once sentenced to death under Saddam Hussein's rule, welcomed the 2003 invasion that freed the country from "wicked tyrannical rule" in which every Iraqi was "inside a veritable jail of death and oppression".

Asked if the British effort that saw the loss of 178 British lives had held the line against complete anarchy descending on Basra the general said: "You could say that, possibly."

But Lt Col Simon Browne, the commanding officer of 2nd Bn Royal Anglians who commanded the battalion at the height of fighting in 2006 and returned again this year, said: "We set the conditions for this, we bought the Iraqi security forces enough time to get to this position – you don't establish an army overnight. We were holding the line stopping the situation getting so bad that no one could ever salvage it."

Gen Mohammed argued that there was still a need for coalition forces in Basra "be they British or American".

"I think if UK were to leave there are other forces that would stand in for them. You cannot just leave Basra.

"I get there the feeling that there are American initiatives in train to increase their presence in the south."
 
#3
Maybe we did, but we are only following the Goberments policy............ they allow it in UK!

....and stand by!
 

BrunoNoMedals

LE
Kit Reviewer
#4
I get the impression there's a hell of a lot of word-twisting and exaggeration on the part of the journalist in that report. I can tell, because he typed something.
 
#5
It would be a fair criticism had we been ruling Iraq during this time. But we weren't - our ability to go into Govt departments and remove people with militia ties was around zero, and had we done so, Basra would have been in even more chaos.
Militia affiliation was a fact of life then - it was how most people survived, and there was hardly anyone who didnt have links to some militia or another. To blame HMG for not removing people from their positions, when the IA itself was one large militia organisation in places is a classic example of the Iraqis refusing to accept responsibility for their own problems.
 
#6
jim30 said:
It would be a fair criticism had we been ruling Iraq during this time. But we weren't - our ability to go into Govt departments and remove people with militia ties was around zero, and had we done so, Basra would have been in even more chaos.
Militia affiliation was a fact of life then - it was how most people survived, and there was hardly anyone who didnt have links to some militia or another. To blame HMG for not removing people from their positions, when the IA itself was one large militia organisation in places is a classic example of the Iraqis refusing to accept responsibility for their own problems.
"We had to rebuild the Iraqi army from scratch but we were let down by other Government agencies who allowed the militias to take the civilian positions," a Ministry of Defence source said. "

Come on Jim, do tell us about the great long list of successes that DFID et al have had?

On TELIC6 they sat around, waiting for the Wr convoys to deliver their drinks from the APOD, whilst trousering hundreds of pounds per day to sit by the swimming pool.

Until one large scouse woman was sent home for not wearing her body armour...

msr
 
#7
We tried to do a Division- or Corps-size occupation task with a Brigade group (as we are in Afghanistan). Today's situation was entirely predictable from D-1 on Telic 1.

Tom Harding is ok - for a journo. At least he did wear green for a while.
 
#8
Don't get me wrong - I'm not defending DFID - I've seen how they work, and frankly I think basket weaving with natural yoghurt courses aren't the best way forward.

Its a bit of a chicken and egg scenario though - they couldnt go out till security improved (due to their HR rules), and security wasn't going to improve until the general life got better. The motivation for many of the junior militia men was more that of bored young men seeking work , than of die hard opposition to the occupation.

The problem wasn't helped by the PC sulking every time we did a snatch on someone and then refusing to have all contact with us. If we sent people out to meet with representatives, they'd be turned back - if the locals don't want to meet us, because they are having yet another hissy fit, while plotting to get rid of the Governor, then what can OGDs do?
 
#9
It is a well known fact that the coalition had clearly formulated objectives:

1. To make Iraq free from the WMD. Freed.
2. To remove the dictator Saddam Hussein from the power. Removed.
3. To bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqis. Brought.

It is an internal business of Iraqis whom to elect, whom to appoint. The coalition respects the right of Iraqis to have rulers they wish.

Also, I would like to note incorrect terminology used by the general. Insurgent sare those who fight with or confront with existing authorities. Authorities can not be insurgents by definition.
 

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