Telegraph- Secret papers Iraq war

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  1. By Andrew Gilligan
    Published: 9:58PM GMT 21 Nov 2009
    On the eve of the Chilcot inquiry into Britain’s involvement in the 2003 invasion and its aftermath, The Sunday Telegraph has obtained hundreds of pages of secret Government reports on “lessons learnt” which shed new light on “significant shortcomings” at all levels.

    They include full transcripts of extraordinarily frank classified interviews in which British Army commanders vent their frustration and anger with ministers and Whitehall officials.

    The reports disclose that:

    Tony Blair, the former prime minister, misled MPs and the public throughout 2002 when he claimed that Britain’s objective was “disarmament, not regime change” and that there had been no planning for military action. In fact, British military planning for a full invasion and regime change began in February 2002.

    The need to conceal this from Parliament and all but “very small numbers” of officials “constrained” the planning process. The result was a “rushed”operation “lacking in coherence and resources” which caused “significant risk” to troops and “critical failure” in the post-war period.

    Operations were so under-resourced that some troops went into action with only five bullets each. Others had to deploy to war on civilian airlines, taking their equipment as hand luggage. Some troops had weapons confiscated by airport security.

    Commanders reported that the Army’s main radio system “tended to drop out at around noon each day because of the heat”. One described the supply chain as “absolutely appalling”, saying: “I know for a fact that there was one container full of skis in the desert.”

    The Foreign Office unit to plan for postwar Iraq was set up only in late February, 2003, three weeks before the war started.

    The plans “contained no detail once Baghdad had fallen”, causing a “notable loss of momentum” which was exploited by insurgents. Field commanders raged at Whitehall’s “appalling” and “horrifying” lack of support for reconstruction, with one top officer saying that the Government “missed a golden opportunity” to win Iraqi support. Another commander said: “It was not unlike 1750s colonialism where the military had to do everything ourselves.”

    The documents emerge two days before public hearings begin in the Iraq Inquiry, the tribunal appointed under Sir John Chilcot, a former Whitehall civil servant, to “identify lessons that can be learnt from the Iraq conflict”.

    Senior military officers and relatives of the dead have warned Sir John against a “whitewash”.

    The documents consist of dozens of “post-operational reports” written by commanders at all levels, plus two sharply-worded “overall lessons learnt” papers – on the war phase and on the occupation – compiled by the Army centrally.

    The analysis of the war phase describes it as a “significant military success” but one achieved against a “third-rate army”. It identifies a long list of “significant” weaknesses and notes: “A more capable enemy would probably have punished these shortcomings severely.”

    The analysis of the occupation describes British reconstruction plans as “nugatory” and “hopelessly optimistic”.

    It says that coalition forces were “ill-prepared and equipped to deal with the problems in the first 100 days” of the occupation, which turned out to be “the defining stage of the campaign”. It condemns the almost complete absence of contingency planning as a potential breach of Geneva Convention obligations to safeguard civilians.

    The leaked documents bring into question statements that Mr Blair made to Parliament in the build up to the invasion. On July 16 2002, amid growing media speculation about Britain’s future role in Iraq, Mr Blair was asked: “Are we then preparing for possible military action in Iraq?” He replied: “No.”

    Introducing the now notorious dossier on Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, on Sept 24, 2002, Mr Blair told MPs: “In respect of any military options, we are not at the stage of deciding those options but, of course, it is important — should we get to that point — that we have the fullest possible discussion of those options.”

    In fact, according to the documents, “formation-level planning for a [British] deployment [to Iraq] took place from February 2002”.

    The documents also quote Maj Gen Graeme Lamb, the director of special forces during the Iraq war, as saying: “I had been working the war up since early 2002.”

    The leaked material also includes sheaves of classified verbatim transcripts of one-to-one interviews with commanders recently returned from Iraq – many critical of the Whitehall failings that were becoming clear. At least four commanders use the same word – “appalling” – to describe the performance of the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence.

    Documents describe the “inability to restore security early during the occupation” as the “critical failure” of the deployment and attack the “absence of UK political direction” after the war ended.

    One quotes a senior British officer as saying: “The UK Government, which spent millions of pounds on resourcing the security line of operations, spent virtually none on the economic one, on which security depended.”

    Many of the documents leaked to The Sunday Telegraph deal with key questions for Sir John Chilcot and his committee, such as whether planning was adequate, troops properly equipped and the occupation mishandled, and will almost certainly be seen by the inquiry.

    However, it is not clear whether they will be published by it.
  2. in_the_cheapseats

    in_the_cheapseats LE Moderator

    And ....sorry, but I have to ask.......this is news to us?

    May be to the public but anyone with a brain should have been able to work this out.
  3. Maybe so inthecheapseats, will still be interesting to see how HMG will respond to this "publication" - surprised that it has taken this long for one of the broadsheets to drill-down.

    At least Blair should have the time to respond. It's not like he's been voted-in, to do anything else is it?!
  4. There wasn't the need to work it out; the evidence was all around us. From a military point of view, one of the most heinous things about the lead-up to TELIC was the political refusal to release funding in good time to support the UORs (Urgent Operational Requirements) we knew would be neccessary owing to a misplaced aversion to 'tipping our hand'. Thus, the JIT (Just In Time) philosophy, forced upon us with RAB (Resource Account Budgeting) and other peacetime economy measures, immediately became the NIT (Not In Time) philosophy in practice, just as many had forecast and warned.

    Thanks to sound professional planning and heroic efforts all round, our joint forces still managed to win the war convincingly but the politicians and diplomats failed to plan how to secure the peace and allocate the necessary resources. Their inertia left our isolated forces to hang out to dry, just as has happened in Afghanistan.
  5. We have a winner. :D

    Spot on Dunservin and share your viewpoint. The UOR budget hides a multitude of failures, most of which had been discussed and promises made before the end of 2002. Sadly, as discussed here a couple of months ago, the contents of it will never get the scrutiny they so richly desrve. If the auditors were in the mood, they could go on to investigate the budgeting and involvement of several government sponsored agencies, in relation to their taskings and funding on TELIC itself and since.

    Emporor's New Clothing was my description at the time. Not a lot has changed in the years since.

    When we next embark on a bit of expeditionary warfare, the same approach will likely be taken, with near-enough the same consequences. Quite simply, there are no reasons for the lessons to be learned in the way they should by those with ultimate power. The current example proves to us, that BRITFOR can be committed on a PM's whim and ego, on a dubious mandate, with a scarcity of essential equipment that is nothing short of staggering with little or no personal or political consequences for the serving PM.
  6. Thread continues here. MOD merge please?