Westminster: "Iraq - Withdrawal"

House of Lords yesterday 19 Oct. Selected quotes - full text at HANSARD LINK

Iraq: Withdrawal

Lord Lamont of Lerwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will fix a timetable for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My Lords, the UK is committed to Iraq until such time as the Iraqis are able to take responsibility for their own security. Withdrawal of our troops from Iraq will not depend on reaching certain dates or milestones, but on achieving certain conditions which will be based on principles outlined by the Iraqi Joint Committee to Transfer Security Responsibility.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, but is it not increasingly clear that the occupation feeds the insurgency; that many American military operations against the insurgency are counter-productive; and that it will be very difficult to win this war within a reasonable period of time? Does not the new Iraqi constitution, if it is accepted, give a golden opportunity for the Iraqis to take control of their own destiny, whatever the risks—because they will have to do that at some time—and for British troops, who have behaved with huge distinction, to depart with honour?
Lord Garden: ...When considering how to undertake successful military operations, every textbook says that you need a clear political objective that the military can follow. Can the Minister tell us what is that clear political objective of the British Government? Is it putting democracy in place—in which case, was the Foreign Secretary correct last week when he said on "Newsnight" that that would take five to 10 years?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, our political objectives are clear. They are to move forward such that the political control of Iraq is in the hands of the Iraqis; to move forward to the point where the Iraqi security forces are capable themselves of ensuring the security of their country—as I said, we saw some evidence that we are making real progress on that—and, most importantly, to move forward to the point where it is clear to the people of Iraq that the economic and social progress of the country is making a difference to their lives. Our presence there is undoubtedly helping that process.
Lord Inge: My Lords, the Minister said in his earlier statement that certain conditions had to be met. It may be an unfair question to ask him to give those conditions now, but I would welcome being informed of what they are...

Lord Drayson: ...The conditions to enable us to draw down from Iraq and to transfer responsibility for security to the Iraqi security forces are handled within the Iraqi Joint Committee to Transfer Security Responsibility. That committee has set out four broad categories. I shall briefly list them: assessment of the threat level posed by the insurgents; the ability of the Iraqi security forces to take on the task; the capacity of the provincial bodies to cope with the changed security environment; and the posture and support that the coalition forces are able to give.

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