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Bernard Jenkin's unanswerable question about British troops leaving Iraq: "If now is the right time for the British to leave, why are the Americans taking over so much of the role that we are abandoning?"

Yesterday ConHome reported David Cameron's response to the Prime Minister's announcement of troop withdrawals from Iraq.  The best contribution, however, came from Bernard Jenkin MP, who was Shadow Defence Secretary at the time of the Iraq war.  He nailed the fact that Britain is withdrawing after having failed to 'finish the job' in the way that the American surge has tried to do.  The explanation for that failure does not, of course, lie in the bravery of the British troops - their courage is beyond dispute - but in the Government's under-resourcing of Britain's armed forces and dreadful mismanagement of procurement

Here is the exchange between Bernard Jenkin and Gordon Brown:

Bernard Jenkin: "Does the Prime Minister agree that for all the terrible difficulties that have been faced in Iraq—not least by our own armed forces during our time there—history is likely to judge the removal of Saddam Hussein as the right thing to do and as a success, and that our armed forces will be seen to have played a decisive role in that? Does he understand, however, the sense of unease felt by many in the armed forces and others that we are snatching defeat from the jaws of victory? If now is the right time for the British to leave, why are the Americans taking over so much of the role that we are abandoning? Is it not just the case that we have run out of military capacity and political will, and that we are, in effect, being asked to leave because we cannot effectively contribute anything further with what we have available to us?"

The Prime Minister: "I agree very much with the first part of the hon. Gentleman’s remarks—that the removal of Saddam Hussein will be seen in history as a decisive act that made possible a democracy in Iraq—but I do not agree with his final comments, as the role that we have played in Iraq is in many cases now being taken over by the Iraqi forces and people. Whereas we used to be the organisers of any combat action in Basra, any interventions that had to be made in the town of Basra and the protection of the area, that is now being done by the Iraqi army and police. We have trained them to a point at which our commanders are satisfied that they have the ability and capacity to do that job. It is Iraqi servicemen who are doing the work previously done by British servicemen, and I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman would have applauded that."

Tim Montgomerie


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