Archive for the 'British Army' Category

The Battle in Basra

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 8 months ago

The Shi’ite militias are active, and not just in Basra.  Baghdad is under direct attack from the forces of Moqtada al Sadr.  “Terrorists launched 12 combined mortar and rocket attacks attacks into Multi-National Division – Baghdad’s operational environment beginning at approximately 6 a.m. March 25.  Among the multiple attacks were 107 mm rockets were fired toward Baghdad’s International Zone, 81 mm mortars were fired at Forward Operating Base Falcon, 107 mm rockets were fired at Forward Operating Base Rustamiyah, 60 mm mortars were fired at Joint Security Station Thawra 1, and 60 mm mortars were fired at Joint Security Station SUJ.”

But the bulk of the fighting has been to the South in Basra.  Nibras Kazimi calls this Operation Cavalry Charge, and his comments will be used as a launching pad for our own.

Here’s a prediction: the Iraqi Army’s military operation in Basra will be a spectacular win against disorder and Iranian influence.

Today, the Iraqi Army launched its first major military operation to fully control Basra, the second largest city in Iraq, without any—ANY—Coalition assistance. One source tells me that during the preparation phase of this campaign the Americans offered to position some U.S. Special Forces and air-cover near the Basra battle theater to act as back-up if needed but their Iraqi counterparts planning this operation politely turned down the offer.

This is Operation ‘Cavalry Charge’, which is the best translation I could come up with for صولة الفرسان.

Its chief objective is to flush out the organized crime cartels that control the port of Basra and the oil pipelines of the province. One major criminal force in the Basrawi scene are groups that affiliate themselves with the Sadrist movement and its Mahdi Army. Many of these criminal rings are also associated with certain factions of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard that operate in Basra both for intelligence/sabotage purposes as well as enriching themselves. By knocking out these egregious manifestations of lawlessness, Operation Cavalry Charge will have the accrued benefit of mashing up the more subtle patterns of Iran’s malignant influence in Iraqi Shiism’s foremost economic prize, the oil fields and port of Basra.

But is this how this story is being reported by the US and Arab media? Of course not!

The dominant false narrative du jour goes something like this: the Sadrists are angry over a number of things (arrests, political wrangling with the Hakim family and the Da’awa Party, etc.) so they decided to back away from Sadr’s seven-month ‘ceasefire’ (a term invented by the western media as a deliberately wrongful translation of تجميد وإعادة هيكلة جيش المهدي: “freezing and restructuring the Mahdi Army”) by staging ‘civil disobedience’ (…such as shutting down primary schools and shops by threatening teachers, students and the middle class) but things quickly deteriorated into the perpetual cycles violence that these journalists and pundits are mentally wedded to and have staked their thin expertise on predicting as Iraq’s inevitable fate …

If he wins—and I predict that he will—then he’s holding on to the prime minister’s seat from here until the 2010 elections …

Maliki has sent 50,000 Iraqi soldiers to deal with about a dozen criminal cartels. Militarily, this will be an easy fight. Those counseling caution and delay stressed that smashing Sadrist-related criminal cartels would spark a large-scale Sadrist reaction across Iraq at a time when the Bush administration wants to keep Iraq quiet especially with the ‘4000’ milestone that was being approached and got passed a couple of days ago. Another argument against action counseled that the Iranians are angling for a fire-fight to sully any talk of progress that Gen. Petraeus may give in a couple of weeks when he appears before Congress, and that the Democrats and their allies in the US media would take these images out of Basra and elsewhere and package the news as a “security meltdown” (…which they would and have done so, irrespective of reality).

Maliki decided that he doesn’t give a damn about US presidential elections and that the only timeline that concern him are Iraq’s own upcoming elections. Maliki also concluded, from intensive intelligence reporting, that the Sadrists are weak and that Iran doesn’t really have much punch to its supposed influence in Iraq. That’s why he decided to go for it.

Kazimi is a smart and well-connected Iraqi analyst.  We are always anxious to study his next commentary, although to our disappointment, there are fewer of them being issued.  The Captain’s Journal wants to maintain good relations with Talisman Gate, but one troubling aspect of Kazimi’s analysis emerges.  He is almost pathologically sanguine and optimistic, even to the point of arguing that “Iran doesn’t really have much punch to its supposed influence in Iraq.”

Kazimi continues by discussing the softening of the Sadrists, and then divides the ones shooting in Basra into two categories: “organized crime cartels and the Iranian-managed Special Groups.”  The Shi’a, says Kazimi, have risen above the infighting and see the need to reject and renounce Sadr and his forces.  As for the Iranian-sponsored thugs (presumably here he is discussing other factions such as Badr [SIIC], some Quds fighters, etc.), Kazimi again sees them as being unfruitful for Iran.  Sanguine, to say the least.  He sums up by saying this.

Remember the time when Maliki was bad-mouthed for being soft on the Sadrists and the dominant false narrative of the time had it that he owed his political power to them? I wonder what all the experts who parroted this claim would have to say about Operation Cavalry Charge and Maliki’s role in it?

The Captain’s Journal still doesn’t like Maliki.  This operation should have been conducted years ago, and one troubling aspect of Maliki’s involvement came to light in an ultimatum he issued to the fighters in Basra.  “Iraq’s prime minister on Wednesday gave gunmen in the southern oil port of Basra a three-day deadline to surrender their weapons and renounce violence …”

Kazimi has gotten it right.  The enemy is comprised of Iranian-sponsored thugs and killers, corrupt Sadrists, and criminals who are after oil money (not to mention the Islamist gangs who have beheaded hundreds of women over the last year).  Basra is currently run by a witch’s brew of the worst elements on earth.  To be fighting them is a good thing.  Far from Iraq slipping into chaos, it was always the case that until the Shi’a fighters were taken out like the Sunni insurgents were, there would be no peace in Iraq.

Yet Maliki has issued an ultimatum to these horrible elements to “renounce violence.”  These elements will never renounce violence, but the danger is that they will call Maliki’s bluff and make a show of standing down, only to watch the Iraqi troops redeploy elsewhere and stike up the violence later when they don’t face such trouble.  We have seen this scene play out for quite a while now, starting in 2004 with Sadr.  If this happens, Maliki will look like an inept stooge.

There can be no negotiations with the criminals and terrorists.  They must be captured or killed.  There should be no offer of amnesty, and Kazimi’s analysis of optimism suffers in light of the reality of Maliki’s offer of peace.  Kazimi later notes that the Iraqi Army was operating with the utmost restraint.  The Captain’s Journal responds that the utmost restraint is not called for.  To be sure, noncombatants should be secured and protected.  But the criminals need to see the Iraqi Army as the stronger horse, just like the Anbaris saw the Marines as the stronger horse.  The utmost restraint will not win the campaign.

Kazimi does offer another interesting note.  “The Iraqi Army holds the British Forces cowering behind barbed wire in Basra Airport in the lowest regard; the Iraqis hold the British responsible for dropping the ball in Basra and in Amara, allowing the crime cartels to expand and take root. Iraqi officers regularly dismiss the British military as “sissies” and “cowards”. The Americans have never had a military presence in Basra since the war began in 2003.”

The Captain’s Journal responds that the U.S. was not there because the British were.  As for the British being “sissies” and “cowards,” this seems like excessive language.  We have weighed in before concerning the British strategy, in Calamity in Basra and British Rules of Engagement, The Rise of the JAM, and other subsequent articles.  Also, as British Colonel Tim Collins has pointed out, “Britain’s withdrawal from a chaotic Basra has “badly damaged” its military reputation.”  Damaged indeed.  These Iraqi comments go directly to the Colonel’s point.

But it isn’t the warriors Britain brought to the fight who are to be blamed.  They are as brave and disciplined as any in the world, and more so than most.  It is the British military leadership who couldn’t relinquish their soft counterinsurgency doctrine taken away from their experience in Northern Ireland.  Command is to blame, and the British enlisted men under U.S. leadership would probably have performed as well as the U.S. enlisted men.

On a final note, The Captain’s Journal is as concerned about the SIIC as it is the Sadrists, and maybe more so given how well they have been able to work into the political scene in Iraq.  Remember.  Some of the worst men in history began as politicians and retained their power through political influence.  Being involved in the political scene is not enough.  Iranian influence must be gone, and the SIIC is a major broker of Iranian influence peddling.

Editorial Note: This post has been updated and expanded in Continued Chaos in Basra.

Basra Today: The Beheading of Women

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 8 months ago

The Telegraph gives us a glimpse into the state of Basra today.

Five years on from the invasion of Iraq, the apparent success of the American surge and growing stability in Basra are providing cautious grounds for optimism. There has been a palpable change in the atmosphere in Basra since Britain formally handed over control of the province to the Iraqis last December.

After the initial euphoria that greeted British troops when they participated in the campaign to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, things quickly turned sour as they found themselves caught up in a vicious power struggle between militias.

By last summer, the last British battle group found itself under siege at Basra palace, and was obliged to make a tactical withdrawal to the air base on the city outskirts, where it remains.

But the main purpose of the British mission had always been to train the Iraqis to a level where they could take responsibility for their own security, and that is now slowly starting to happen, as I found when I visited Basra.

Now that British forces have withdrawn from the city centre, it is difficult to know precisely what is happening there, but local contacts and British intelligence sources report that the situation is far calmer than last year, with Shia religious parties assuming responsibility for security.

The intent should have been to eradicate the radical elements or subdue them.  Note the wording of this last statement: ” … with Shia religious parties assuming responsibility for security.”  The British didn’t turn over security to the radical Shia militia; nor do the Jaish al Mahdi or the SIIC  care about security.

The main purpose for the 4,000 British troops is to provide back-up for the Iraqi security forces when required.

The overall situation in Basra has been greatly helped by the recent six-month extension to the ceasefire agreed by Moqtada al Sadr’s militias, although one senior British diplomat said there had been “a number of moments when things have been very dodgy”.

And although the mood is calmer, the militias are still intimidating local people. Walls in the city bear graffiti warning: “If we catch women without the veil, we will cut off your head.”

Some security.  The deplorable British strategy in Basra and retreat in the face of radical Islamists has resulted in the targeting of women.

One hundred and thirty-three women were killed last year in Basra, Iraq’s second largest city, either by religious vigilantes or as a result of so-called “honour” killings, a report said on 31 December.

The report, released by Basra Security Committee at a conference on women’s rights in the city, said 79 of the victims were deemed by extremists to be “violating Islamic teachings”, 47 others died in “honour” killings and the remaining seven were targeted for their political affiliations.

“The women of Basra are being horrifically murdered and then dumped in the garbage with notes saying they were killed for violating Islamic teachings,” Bassem al-Moussawi, head of the committee and a member of Basra’s Provincial Council, told the conference.

“Sectarian groups are trying to force a strict interpretation of Islam… They send their vigilantes to roam the city, hunting down those who are deemed to be behaving against their [the extremists’] own interpretations,” al-Moussawi said.


Calamity in Basra and British Rules of Engagement

The Rise of the JAM

Basra and Anbar Reverse Roles

Western Anbar Versus the Shi’a South: Pictures of Contrast

British Versus the Americans: War Over Strategy

COIN is Context-Driven or Situation-Specific

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 8 months ago

Stéphane Taillat has a very smart post on his predominately French blog, but this one is in English so it will be friendly to most readers.  It is well worth the time spent to study his entire article.  The “money” quote follows:

COIN has no principles. In my mind, it’s the contrary, and that can explains this narrative. COIN is “context-driven”, so most of the procedures that seem to succeed now come from the field and were implemented at the beginning by many officer and leaders. COIN, as a mission, is a contingent phenomenon. It relies on doctrine, formation and training, tactical procedures that integrates technology, social skills and knowledge as well as situational awareness and leader’s initiatives. It cannot be deduced from principles but rather from a progressive and close intimacy with the social and psychological terrain, both local and of own units. last but not least, remember that today’s insurgencies are not like past insurgencies, as a result of which counterinsurgency can’t simply apply “lessons learned” from History without any harm.

On the whole we agree with him on the general thrust of the article.  Counterinsurgency is indeed “context-driven,” or situation-specific (although we do think that some basic ideas may be deduced from experience).  The post on COIN Analogy of the Day brought some degree of opprobrium concerning our dismissal of the British experience in Northern Ireland as being relevant to counterinsurgency in Iraq or anywhere else.  Whether Protestant or Roman Catholic, greater U.K. or English, the fact of the matter is that this was COIN among their own people.  They were the same, at least as compared to Iraq.  The religious, cultural, societal, and political framework was the same; the ethical morays were the same; the language was the same; and by and large the history is the same.

When the British landed in Basra, they may as well have been placed on a different planet.  Nothing was the same, and thus whatever the British learned in Northern Ireland instantly became irrelevant.  In 2003, the British Army fished in the waters of the Shaat al Arab on their days off.  In 2007 when the British retreated from Basra, they did so while telling the tall tale that since the very presence of the British themselves was causing the violence, it would be better if they just left.  In other words, no one would shoot at the Army if the Army wasn’t there.

These things are being said not just at this blog or by U.S. mouthpieces.  British Colonel Tim Collins has criticized the overall strategy, saying among other things that there were too few troops, and that “Britain’s withdrawal from a chaotic Basra has “badly damaged” its military reputation.”  The post on “COIN Analogy of the Day” was written partially in humor.  This post is not.

The American strategy was horribly bad, and if for no other reason than the inability to stand up the Iraqi Army due to cultural differences, most anyone with brain matter could have told the administration that “standing down when they stand up” was not a plan.  Fortunately, U.S. forces in Anbar did their own thing after 2004 regardless of command confusion.  And they won – this may be Stephane’s point.

Even today there seems to be yet more admissions of failure in Basra by the British envoy to Basra, while at the same time he looks for reasons and excuses (such as it was inevitable anyway) rather than force size, force projection and a learning strategy.

On a serious note, the British generals failed.  The British rank and file include warriors as brave and qualified as any armed forces in the world.  It behooves the Brits to become as open and learning about this whole affair as the U.S. has become.  Taking posts such as this one as insulting is not helpful and doesn’t make progress.  To use an American phrase, the “cookie-cutter” approach to COIN doesn’t work.

Concerning Killing Bad Guys and Sacking Worthless Officers

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 9 months ago

In Our Deal with Mullah Abdul Salaam, I concluded the discussion on the British negotiations with erstwhile mid-level Taliban commanders who vowed to “switch sides” and fight against the Taliban, their forces failing to materialize when the battle for Musa Qala began.  From the Oxford Mail we get an update on the situation in and around Musa Qala.

When the British captured Musa Qala, they discovered a heroin refinery in a row of derelict garages – and a stock of opium which would have produced heroin with a street value of £5m. It was burned on a bonfire.

British soldiers are now sheltering in the open-fronted buildings, which offer little protection against the rain, snow and intense cold – night-time temperatures often fall to -10 C.

Up to seven heroin refineries in the district have been destroyed by the allies – depriving the Taliban of vital funds, collected through tithes from farmers and protection money paid by smugglers.

But while Musa Qala’s battered, bullet-holed district centre may have been retaken, the Taliban are still out there in the hills and villages, murdering anyone suspected of collaborating with the British or Afghan government forces, ambushing convoys, firing rockets and mortars, and planting roadside bombs – so-called Improvised Explosive Devices.

This is fine form indeed.  In addition to the Taliban roaming freely about the countryside to perpetrate violence, NATO forces are mixing up the global war on terror with the war on drugs, and destroying the population’s cash crop in their brainy rendition of “winning hearts and minds.”

Fred Kaplan relates a conversation he had with a British officer not too long ago concerning their view of the campaign: “The assumption, on the part of the NATO nations, was that the mission would be shifting away from “counterterrorism” to “counterinsurgency”— that is, from “going after bad guys for the sake of going after bad guys” (as one British officer snidely put it to me when I visited Afghanistan that summer) to securing areas for the sake of promoting economic development.”

Ah yes, the “deep magic” of counterinsurgency.  Enough money, military transition teams and roads, and the insurgency simply disappears.  Military power and kinetic operations is for uneducated knuckle-draggers and brutes – creation of infrastructure is for thinkers and scholars.  A variant of this view is present to the South in Pakistan, where the government is courting the idea of the implementation of sharia law in order to appease the extremist tribes in Waziristan.

As I discussed in Short Lived Ceasefire with the Taliban, a truce, or ceasefire, was negotiated only several days ago between the Taliban and Pakistan, but most good analysts believe that this can only be advantageous for the Taliban.

The same “deep magic” that causes British commanders to mock the idea of killing bad guys in Afghanistan also causes the Pakistani military command to call off military operations against Baitullah Mehsud and his forces in what is becoming a troubling sign of the lack of will concerning the tribal areas.  This lack of will apparently runs up through the highest levels of military command in Pakistan.

The announcement of a cease-fire just a few weeks into a determined military operation against one of Pakistan’s most wanted men, the militant leader Baitullah Mehsud, has once again raised questions about the Pakistani government’s commitment to combating militancy in the country’s tribal areas.

Pakistani analysts said they feared that the cease-fire was reminiscent of past deals that allowed the militants to regroup and fortify their stronghold, turning the tribal areas into a veritable ministate for the Taliban and Al Qaeda. United States officials have long voiced reservations that any further deals with the militants would be counterproductive.

Spokesmen for Mr. Mehsud, who Pakistani and American officials say is linked to Al Qaeda and the attack that killed the opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, announced the cease-fire last week. The government has not confirmed it, and a military spokesman said military operations against Mr. Mehsud and his followers, estimated in the thousands, were continuing.

But two senior security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists, said a cease-fire was in place.

The cease-fire announcement followed three weeks of intensive fighting that began in a mountainous part of South Waziristan on Jan. 16, when security forces mounted a large-scale offensive against Mr. Mehsud and his forces. Reports of the clashes said scores of soldiers and militants were killed.

The army imposed a debilitating economic blockade, coupled with a three-pronged operation to box in Mr. Mehsud and his militants, using the full force of the army’s arsenal, including fighter jets and artillery. The blockade was so effective that for weeks little information about the campaign emerged from the area.

The campaign has been part of the most serious push against militants in several years, led by the new army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who Western diplomats had hoped would refocus the military’s effort in the tribal areas.

The acting interior minister, Hamid Nawaz Khan, suggested that military operations were bearing fruit and that the militants were on the run. “They start asking for negotiations themselves after they find themselves weak due to the military operation,” he said.

The reasons for what appears to be a reversal by the government remain unclear. But given the bitter experience of past deals, and the army’s apparent readiness to pursue military operations against Mr. Mehsud this time, the news of the cease-fire has been greeted with dismay by some Pakistani analysts.

In an interview, Mehmood Shah, a retired brigadier who served as the chief civil administrator of the tribal areas after 9/11, said he understood that the military operation was going well and according to plan, despite difficulties because of the terrain and the harsh winter weather.

He warned that any cease-fire or peace deal with Mr. Mehsud, before his forces were sufficiently degraded, would work against the military’s goals. “The army should not be doing a deal, and in the case that they are, it would be a mistake,” he said.

The problem, however, is that ceasefires have never helped the Pakistan military, and the Taliban have always come out better due to such deals.  In Afghanistan, military transition teams who aren’t really looking for a fight are left alone by the Taliban because they aren’t a threat to Taliban ambitions, and the same roads built by NATO are used by the Taliban to emplace IEDs and travel far and wide to kill and maim as part of their intimidation campaign.  Driving the Taliban from the urban centers, rather than a chase by NATO forces, means sending them into the countryside to lie in wait to “murder anyone suspected of collaborating with the British or Afghan government forces, ambush convoys, fire rockets and mortars, and plant roadside bombs.”

The “deep magic” of counterinsurgency fails its advocates, because there is a deeper magic still.  Just as there are some who take counterinsurgency to be equivalent to kinetic operations against the enemy, there are also some who lurch to the other extreme.  COIN is all about hearts and minds, infrastructure, reconstruction and societal stability.  This ‘either-or’ approach jettisons the ‘both-and’ approach to COIN in favor of a sequence rather than a concept.

Leadership is needed in Pakistan where the Taliban are being allowed to regroup and plan for the spring.  Leadership is needed throughout Afghanistan where chasing insurgents brings scoffs among the military elite, and where kinetic operations against the enemy is relegated to special forces operations against high value targets and prominent personalities.

The British officer to whom Kaplan talked snidely ridiculed “going after bad guys for the sake of going after bad guys.”  I might also snidely retort that I do not at all advocate going after bad guys for its own sake either.  Rather, I advocate “going after bad guys” for the same reason that I advocate building infrastructure and sacking totally worthless officers: for the sake of the counterinsurgency campaign and the future of Afghanistan.

Prior: Doctrinal Confusion in COIN: What do you do when your forces no longer want to fight?

UK Army Problems

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 10 months ago

Another valuable discussion thread at the Small Wars Journal has been started going by the same title as this post.  It links to a Telegraph article that discusses decreased training for troops sent to Afghanistan.

Fears that poorly trained and inexperienced troops will be sent to plug the gaps on the front line in Afghanistan were raised last night after it emerged training times for combat soldiers are to be halved.

In a desperate bid to find enough infantry to fight the Taliban next year an “exceptional” measure of reducing training from 28 weeks to just 14 weeks is set to be introduced, it was reported last night.

Up to 1,000 Army recruits could be fast tracked into the war zone in order to bring under-manned battalions up to strength with each one an average of 100 men short.

The “accelerated training” measure has been introduced at a time when thousands of officers and senior NCOs are leaving the Army fed up with poor pay, accommodation and continuous operational tours with little time at home.

A Council member from Windsor states in reply “We’re falling apart in slow motion, and you can see it in everything we do. The last thing to fail will be the blokes in the sections, but that will happen eventually when the C2 and decisionmaking supports crap plans that put people in the wrong place at the wrong time, have treated them like serfs for too long. No one is biting the bullet: Double the size of the infantry, Double their wages, Enforce the training standards; sack anyone who doesn’t pass muster.”

This is a sad thing to watch – a once great nation which fielded a once great armed forces, reduced to sending warriors into battle unprepared.  The council member says this points to larger problems, though.  It appears as if he is correct.  First of all there is the non-denial denial by the duplicitous Gordon Brown.

The government dismissed suggestions on Thursday that it would send troops into combat in Afghanistan without proper training, but acknowledged that instruction could be ‘tightened’ for reserve units.

The Times said 1,000 recruits faced the prospect of receiving just 14 weeks of training, rather than the usual 26-28 weeks, before being sent to the front in Afghanistan, where British forces are severely stretched.

 A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown dismissed the report, saying: “There’s absolutely no question of compromising on our training standards or sending troops into operational theatres unprepared.”

The Ministry of Defence said in a statement that training for combat infantry would not be cut, but added:

“The option for more focused, concentrated training is being looked at for reserve forces, not regular forces, and it would potentially increase the amount of training for certain individuals in the Territorial Army.”

We have come to expect this behavior from Brown, who famously denied negotiations with the Taliban and then proceeded to describe British negotiations with the Taliban.  Now for the translation of Brown’s words and a better description of the real plan.

The senior officers who have proposed an accelerated training course for 900 fast-track recruits for Afghanistan have admitted that there would be risks for the Army’s “reputation, duty of care and performance under pressure on operations”.

The Ministry of Defence said that civilians recruited into the Army under the proposed accelerated training programme for Afghanistan could be signed up for less than 15 months as part of a plan to meet manpower shortages.

These specially selected recruits would be badged as members of the Territorial Army, not as regulars, although officials admitted they would fulfil the role of regular infantry.

A review of battalions available for Afghanistan next year had revealed that most would be 100 soldiers short, and this has been the reason for the proposal to recruit a batch of soldiers under special circumstances and give them a shortened form of training.

After the report in The Times yesterday on the controversial new scheme, the MoD put out a statement in which it said: “Nothing has been agreed or indeed discussed by chiefs, but there are ideas potentially to recruit people under possible TA conditions of service to the Army for a limited period of time. They would complete training and an operational tour with the option to leave or stay on afterwards.”

Under the proposed scheme the TA-badged soldiers would be offered the option of joining the regular Army, remaining in the TA or becoming civilians again, once their short-term contract was completed.

This plan sends poorly trained troops into the most important billet in any counterinsurgency: infantry.  It is a pointer to larger, more systemic illness within the leadership beginning at the very highest levels of the administration.  Leadership sets the example, and the senior field grade officers carry it out.  This is the same poor vision that caused the British retreat from Basra in 2007.  We have been critical of this retreat at the Captain’s Journal, especially since it was announced and carried out because it was believed that if the British were no longer present in the city, the targeting of British troops would no longer occur (couched in pedantic language to make it sound like counterinsurgency military doctrine in action).

But the road to recovery involves admission of the illness.  This has been admirably done by Colonel Tim Collins concerning the British efforts.

Britain’s withdrawal from a chaotic Basra has “badly damaged” its military reputation, a commander honoured for his role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq said today.

Colonel Tim Collins, who rose to prominence as commander of the 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Regiment, delivered a scathing indictment of British efforts to stabilise the southern Iraqi province, saying that “great incompetence” in the military leadership had left it in “chaos.”

“I think the whole enterprise has been characterised by muddled thinking and lack of planning and over-optimism,” he told BBC Radio 4.

His comments followed Britain’s handover yesterday of security responsibilities to Iraqi authorities in Basra, the last of four provinces in the oil-rich south under British control, and came after the release of a videotape from Osama bin Laden’s deputy crowing at Britain’s “decision to flee” Basra.

Though ministers insist the transfer is the result of an improving security situation in the region, others, including figures in the British and American militaries, have characterised it as a retreat rather than a withdrawal.

This same doctrinal confusion underpins the British strategy to negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan.  It should be understood and acknowledged that the British spirit, people and institutions can field a military worthy of her history.  These things point to a problem with leadership at the very highest levels and going through the ranks to field grade officer.  Britain should be complaining that she deserves better leadership than she has had.


Calamity in Basra and British Rules of Engagement
Basra and Anbar Reverse Roles
British Versus the Americans: The War Over Strategy
The British-American War Continues: MI6 Agents Expelled from Afghanistan
Our Deal with Mullah Abdul Salaam

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