The Scotsman - MoD refuses plea for more Basra troops

#1
lead story in today's Scotsman:

http://uk.news.yahoo.com/040831/17/f1kas.html

MoD refuses plea for more Basra troops
Key points• MoD refuses reinforcements because of fears it will undermine case for cuts• British forces reduce Basra patrols because of lack of manpower• Iraqis in charge of security but UK forces expected to stay for some time

Key quote"We can't do anything without proper security and you can't have that unless the proper number of troops are deployed" - Brigadier Alan Alstead

Story in full REQUESTS from British commanders in Iraq for reinforcements to cope with an upsurge in violence have been rebuffed because it would be too politically embarrassing at a time when the Ministry of Defence is proposing to make sweeping cuts to the armed forces.

British commanders have repeatedly asked for additional forces to back up those already in southern Iraq, only to find their requests falling on deaf ears. Privately, some officers serving there believe the security threat is being downplayed by the MoD to avoid having to send out extra troops.

After three deaths in as many weeks, British forces have reduced their patrols in Basra to the limited areas around their bases to avoid further confrontations with militants.

Some senior officers are unhappy that they do not have enough troops to bring the situation under control. They are barred from speaking out publicly but one former senior officer with recent experience of the situation in southern Iraq said there was mounting frustration with the MoD.

Brigadier Alan Alstead, a regimental trustee of the King's Own Scottish Borderers and chairman of Mercy Corps Scotland, an aid organisation still trying to operate in Iraq despite the instability, said serving officers had told him the MoD feared sending more troops would undermine the case for cutting infantry battalions. "We can't do anything without proper security and you can't have that unless the proper number of troops are deployed," he said.

He said he was alerted to the problems through his work with Mercy Corps and through his military contacts. Security had deteriorated so that it was no longer safe to billet Mercy Corps staff in the country, he said. They could only operate under extremely difficult circumstances, a situation he blamed on a shortage of British troops.

Responsibility for security has largely been handed over to the Iraqi police and national guard but British commanders have long accepted that their presence will continue to be needed. Earlier this year, Brigadier Nick Carter, the commanding officer of British forces in Basra, told The Scotsman that coalition forces would be needed in Iraq for years and people were living in "cloud-cuckooland" if they thought it was possible to create overnight a police force that was accountable to the population.

Yesterday, Brigadier Alstead said he and other serving officers believed the MoD's attitude was coloured by its decision to get rid of four infantry battalions, including one Scottish regiment, as part of defence cuts proposed by the chief of the general staff, General Mike Jackson, and the army board. "People in the Ministry of Defence are being driven by General Jackson and the army board. They need to hold the levels [of deployment] because we've got these cuts coming and it will look bad," he said.

"Senior officers are afraid to be quoted. They know if they are, their career is at an end."

He said officers had told him they knew of requests for an additional battalion of soldiers, for a full divisional headquarters, and for some tours of duty in Basra to be extended, but all requests were rejected - or "reshaped" - because the MoD had "unjustifiably" played down threat levels in the hope that they would not have to send out more soldiers. "It has been what they can get away with," he said. "Their attitude is that these people will have to survive."

The government has faced previous accusations about overstretch in the army, and about the shortage of available troops to fulfil the commitments taken on by Britain. Critics of the MoD suggested that the deployment of the Black Watch to Iraq for the second time in little over a year demonstrated how thinly British forces were stretched.

But yesterday Captain Donald Francis, spokesman for British forces in Basra, said he was unaware of any requests from senior officers for additional troops, and he said the difficulties were easing.

"The situation in Najaf has calmed down and similarly in Basra," he said. "It is a full vindication of our tactics."

By: GETHIN CHAMBERLAIN -- 31-Aug-04
 
#3
The story over-eggs the pudding. There were - and still are - contingency plans for emergency reinforcements for the guys in and around Basra. They would have been deployed on request if the Shia uprising had escalated in the south, albeit adding to overstretch. The other point is that the Iraqi authorities are now in the saddle. Britforces are there to provide security at their request. No one I know of out there has actually asked for reinforcements to be sent, only that they be available.
 
#4
claymore said:
The story over-eggs the pudding. There were - and still are - contingency plans for emergency reinforcements for the guys in and around Basra. They would have been deployed on request if the Shia uprising had escalated in the south, albeit adding to overstretch. The other point is that the Iraqi authorities are now in the saddle. Britforces are there to provide security at their request. No one I know of out there has actually asked for reinforcements to be sent, only that they be available.
What trade are you again? Didn't know we had Spin Doctors in uniform :twisted:
 
#5
Du Lai,
A lesser man might've taken offence at that. I'm no spin-doctor. Hate the ba*tards, as I think you'll know if you've read any of my posts to this forum. It just happens to be the truth in this case. No one asked for reinforcements. While the fireshirkers were still threatening action, it would have been difficult to find them, but a battalion would have been sent if needed. No shi*. :D
 
#6
claymore said:
While the fireshirkers were still threatening action, it would have been difficult to find them, but a battalion would have been sent if needed. No shi*. :D
A battalion of what though? I didn't realise we had them knocking about spare. The battalion would most likely be made up of guys just off an op tour in the sandy arrsepit within the last 3-6 months, extensive use of the TA, and cancelled POTL and other leave. More worrying, if that is the likely case now, what happens when the cuts have taken their toll? Where do they come from then?

Short-sighted, willful mis-reading of circumstances and blind adherence to the will of political masters over the genuine needs of the armed forces to meet the ever-expanding expeditionary nature of this government's lust for ops and headlines.

A brief reading of the RMAS precis has this quote from Field Marshal Montgomery:

We live today in a scientific age. But we soldiers have to remember that the raw material with which we have to deal is "men". Man is still the first weapon of war. His training is the most important consideration in the fashioning of a fighting army. All modern science is directed towards his assistance, but on his efforts depends the outcome of the battle. The morale of the soldier is the single most important factor in war.
 
#7
[quote="woopert
Short-sighted, willful mis-reading of circumstances and blind adherence to the will of political masters over the genuine needs of the armed forces to meet the ever-expanding expeditionary nature of this government's lust for ops and headlines.

No arguments there, Woopert. I wasn't trying to justify what I, like you, regard as defence policy driven by the worst kind of financial expediency and short-termism. It's a pity the CDS and CGS didn't have the cojones to say no and the integrity to resign in protest.
 
#8
dui-lai said:
claymore said:
The story over-eggs the pudding. There were - and still are - contingency plans for emergency reinforcements for the guys in and around Basra. They would have been deployed on request if the Shia uprising had escalated in the south, albeit adding to overstretch. The other point is that the Iraqi authorities are now in the saddle. Britforces are there to provide security at their request. No one I know of out there has actually asked for reinforcements to be sent, only that they be available.
What trade are you again? Didn't know we had Spin Doctors in uniform :twisted:
Claymore,

glad you took it in the way I meant it :wink:
 
#11
Big Kahoona said:
You never hear about the blokes trickling back from the Arse-raq every week as a consequence of being injured or wounded. Wonder why that is?
MoD's sitting on the figures and won't release them. Lots of people getting sick with various Ay-racki bugs as well as heat-related problems.
 
#13
Big Kahoona said:
Sounds like they are misleading the public then.
Surely not! Well, I'll be dipped in shi*. Maybe there's a first time for everything. :D Some to**er in Main Building probably ruled that release of the actual casualties would be bad for public morale.
 
#14
Surely not! Well, I'll be dipped in shi*. Maybe there's a first time for everything. Some to**er in Main Building probably ruled that release of the actual casualties would be bad for public morale.
The Parliamentary season beckons once more! Perhaps Mr Keetch or Mr Price will ask more questions of TCH!
 
#15
Or maybe someone can just phone Selly Oak and ask the registrar?

Someone like , Oh I dunno , say the Leader of the Local Council, concerned that the troops are getting the best of everything, whilst in his Manor?

Maybe even the local MP , or the Birmingham Post or Evening Mail?

Just a thought :twisted:
 
#17
It's funny - the media are keen to print photos "showing" British soldiers abusing prisoners when they fall into their laps, but can't get of their backsides and sniff out the real story of what's going on.

I am increasingly frustrated by the lack of coverage our guys get from the BBC and other UK networks - it's easier to fall out of your hotel and go on patrol in Bagdhad with the yanks, I suppose. :x
 
#18
PartTimePongo said:
Or maybe someone can just phone Selly Oak and ask the registrar?

Someone like , Oh I dunno , say the Leader of the Local Council, concerned that the troops are getting the best of everything, whilst in his Manor?

Maybe even the local MP , or the Birmingham Post or Evening Mail?

Just a thought :twisted:
You can bet your life the casualties/sick will be widely distributed unless they need urgent and specific attention in Brum. Wouldn't do for Joe Public to learn the truth, Minister. Watch the gyrations when the "Freedom of Information" Act kicks in next January. The shiny-arrses are already plastering over the loopholes in that piece of spinmeistered nonsense.It's hallmark Bliar legislation. It means exactly the opposite of what it says on the tin.
 

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