What Happened in Basra?

The_Snail

ADC
RIP
Try Reading Ministry of Defeat by Richard North it makes painful reading but it does give the full anaylsis as to how the British Army was stabbed in the back through poor equipment and a general lack of willpower amongst politicians and the MOD to push for victory.
When Blair agreed to take Britain to Iraq he wanted a repeat of the Gulf War a quick victory then instant exit that he could take the credit and secure his reputation. When the reality proved far from his liking he sought to Iraqify Basra and the surrounding areas as quickly as possible as the campaign become more unpopular at home.
So while the Insurgency grew British forces shrank, the final blow came when Brown became prime minister because the campaign was so unpopular by then his first priority on taking over was to end it as soon as possible.
The British army was never allowed to truly get to grips with the insurgency if they had done a surge of their own things may have been different but neither the goverment or the MOD had the will to do that.

I can't wait to see the headlines in the papers tomorrow. It's a good job no journos read ARRSE. Oh, hang on.......
 

jim30

LE
On the contrary, don't touch anything by Richard North with a bargepole. The guy has his head so far up his own arse its scary. He has decided he 'knows' what went wrong and that he knows the answer to all our woes. He's posted here a few times and gave up after the serving soldiers on the board pointed out that he was talking utter bollocks.
 

Abdiel

War Hero
On the contrary, don't touch anything by Richard North with a bargepole. The guy has his head so far up his own arse its scary. He has decided he 'knows' what went wrong and that he knows the answer to all our woes. He's posted here a few times and gave up after the serving soldiers on the board pointed out that he was talking utter bollocks.

I missed that, and while I disagree with what he said about Afghanistan I do think he made a fair point that our own high command never seemed to really make any push for success in Iraq. As much as everyone loves to slate George Bush I will say this for him he did have the will to listen to Petraus, switch stratergy and go ahead with the surge something which just about the whole world opposed by then. Neither Blair nor Brown ever the nerve to go against the popular opinion and do the right thing.
 

Andy_S

LE
Book Reviewer
FWIW: Serving soldiers I have spoken to say that the Army went into Basra with a Northern Ireland mindset, and were not prepared for the level of violence (and casualties) that resulted. From the start, a softly-softly approach was taken toward the local scene - eg militias were beating people up in the street, forcing women to cover up on the university campus, etc, etc - while the army stood by and did nothing ("This is their culture," etc, etc). As the violence started to escalate, there was a reluctance to use airpower, mortars, artillery and any indirect fire weapons, for fear of collateral damage that would turn the populace against them.

Result? Militias were able to hit British bases and convoys almost with impunity. Interpreters with the battlegroups were telling troops that their passivity and reluctance to get to grips with the militias was not winning any friends, it was simply making them appear weak, and encouraging an increase in attacks. By then, however, military policy was, perhaps, set in stone and certainly, the political will had eroded. The final result was an ignominious retreat, after which the Iraqi Army had little choice but to go in very hard indeed and wipe out the militias in street battle while the British battlegroup sat safely in Basra Airbase.

In Helmand, OTOH, the army went in kinetic from the word go and what had been a relatively peaceful province, pre-2006, became a war zone.

A happy COIN medium has yet to be found, it seems.

Also FWIW:
A very respected retired British commander (speaking on absolute condition of anonymity) told me this summer that it was his impression that the Army has lost confidence in ranks higher than that of battalion commander.

It seems clear that while much of the blame for recent British failures must go to the politiicans, some must also go to officers of colonel rank and up whose formative military experiences in the '80s and '90s were largely limited to NI and peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.

Another point made here frequently is that the British Military currently lacks the analytical, self-critical and intellectural capabilities of the US Army at prsent.

I think that notion is overstated: Having recently spent some time with one exceptional British battalion about to embark on its third Afghan tour, there was a very lively culture of enquiry and education within its members. The intelligence sergeant of that Btn knew more about Afghan, its personalities, culture and issues than anyone else I have ever met. I should add, he admitted a nmber of both British and American policy failures, largely from backing the wrong guy.
 

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