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I note with some sadness but no surprise that bloggers are piling in with comments on the Tory membership thread and are ignoring this much more important subject.

The American surge isn't just important for its effect in Iraq but for rebuilding the morale of American forces, building impressive counterinsurgency skills in the US military and for finding a General in David Petraeus that could lead US Armed Forces for a decade.

The British retreat has produced exactly the opposite effects; demoralisation, incapacity and poor leadership.

I think it unlikely that we'll ever agree on anything to do with Iraq Tim. But I do find it strange that an intelligent, well informed person like you still seems to be an advocate of a strategy that has manifestly failed in just about every sense. The vote by the Iraqi Parliamentarians yesterday must have revealed even to the most ardent neocon the extent of that failure. We are not wanted there and it will be up to the Iraqis and only the Iraqis how their country developes.


The vote by the Iraqi parliament sort of makes my point and the point of Michael Portillo's article. The Iraqis are happy for the US military to stay but not the British - who many more Iraqis feel let down by.

In saying this I make no criticism of individual British soldiers - only of the politicians in London who haven't equipped them adequately or pursued the right strategy. The bravery of British troops in Afghanistan in particular is world class and humbling.

I would dispute that completely. The call for foreign troops to leave applies to every country not just the British except the US.The Iraqi government signed (presumably under pressure) an agreement to allow US troops to stay until 2011. This deal has not been ratified by the Iraqi parliament. Why? I think we both know what the answer would be.
Obama said originally that he would withdraw troops within 16 months of taking office it will be interesting to see whether he is the sort of politician who actually keeps his promises.

We cannot know precisely Malcolm without detailed opinion polls but my belief is that many, many Iraqis will think more of the Americans who sent extra troops to rid them of the barbarians ruling their neighbourhoods than the British who withdrew to the airport after leaving Basra in charge of 'fundamentalist thugs'. Even if we disagree on the decision to go to war I find it impossible to argue that Britain has behaved more honourably or effectively than America in recent times.

I agree with Umbrela Man. As long as the CP is an organisation which is more interested in gazing at its own navel, remaining determinedly politics-free, people will go elsewhere for their politics.

The fact that the CP - and especially the parliamentary party is a comment-free zone on issues like Iraq (and defence in general), it will not and cannot capture the imagination or support of those who care passionately about the subject.

Tim, you are right about the Portillo piece - it is superb (whoever thought we would be praising that man). The signficance - as many have observed - is massive. Not only does the Iraq experience taint our relations with our greatest ally, it also affects our world standing.

And then there is the campaign in Afghanistan - we should be applying the lessons learned, but as long as there is no serious debate about what those lessons are, then we will see a "business as usual" model, with the risk of further failures.

As to Malcome Dunn, your comments fly in the face of facts. When, in early 2006, Blair announced a progressive "drawdown" of troops, Talibani pleaded with the government not to withdraw troops precipitately. He was supported by the bulk of the Iraqi population, especially the people of Basra. They knew that the withdrawal of the British would create a power vacuum which would be filled by Muqtada al Sadr.

As it was, the British did withdraw, leaving Basra and the south to the not so tender mercies of the Mahdi Army, and it was that betrayal which Maliki is now reacting to. He wants the British out - to be replaced by US forces because the British - through no fault of the troops deployed - are a waste of space.

Interestingly, the Iraqi campaign is one of the most egregious political failures of modern times, largely attributable to Tony Blair and perpetuated by Brown. A robust opposition should be able to make hay over this - a government which has brought national disgrace and all but irreperably damaged the "special relationship".

That brings us back to square one. As long as the CP is a comment-free zone, it only has itself to blame if no-one is no one is interested in it.

A brilliantly insightful piece by Portillo who has otherwise been flakey of late.

The US has been magnificent in Iraq. They have applied brain-power as well as muscle and have analysed and learned from their mistakes. They have confronted hard problems like Fallujah head on. They showed resolve with the surge and it looks as if they will leave the only Arab democracy behind them. A truly awesome achievement, especially when compared with how bad things became during the Sunni insurgency.

Meanwhile us Brits have been skulking out at Basra airport, leaving the people of that city to their fate at the hads of rival militias. Our tactic has been appeasement at every stage. We leave shamed not by this lamentable record alone, but by our hubris in simultaneously condescending to the Americans about Northern Ireland and Malaya (yawn!). Ulster and Malaya didn't do us any good in Basra and aren't doing us any good in Helmand.

Only the eternal bravery of the Tommies, who always do everything that is asked of them, saves British honour from utter ignominy. Our political leadership and generalship has been a craven disgrace. In fact, apart from the show of political support during the actual invasion the US would almost certainly have been better off without us.

The next limp-wristed British general who uses that perennial wimp-out "Ooooh it's all useless! There has to be a politcal solution!" should be shot. Get out there are kill the enemy you useless cissy!

I am very disappointed with Liam Fox.

I had hoped he might have said something in support of the surge.

He seems to have given up his beliefs in return for the prospect of a ministerial car.

The goodwill for the allied forces in 2003 was enormous, but it was wasted by the Bush/Rumsfeld administration, cheered on by Blair. We let the country disolve and then had to spend more money and lives restoring order than we would ever have done had we retained the services of 50% of the Iraqi army and police and kept the 100,000+ troops on the ground that were needed to keep civil order.

We would have been out of Iraq two years ago if that had been done, with a secure democracy and a far smaller insurgency problem - and a stronger position against Iran to boot.

When the surge did come, I for one said it was too small at 20,000. Had 40,000 troops gone in, the job would probably have been done in 12 months not 24.

But then, hindsight is 20:20 vision!

Completely agree Tim

20:20 Vision
I agree strongly with John Moss's comment on keeping the peace after the war. Within 6 weeks of the Iraqi surrender, our analysts were predicting protracted civil strife and guerrilla actions. The reason being that the speed of Allied victory and the small enemy casualty count meant that the Iraqi governmental and intelligence infrastructures and influences were left mainly intact. Maybe they had no arms, but they had the will and political and social influence and ability to acquire funds, sponsors and cannon-fodder to man the newly acquired cannons. The lack of response to looting and disorder immediately after the Allied victory, emboldened that old infrastructure, enhanced their reputations and inflamed the will to bring in foreign funds, sponsors, munitions, escape routes and civil disobedience.

The surge worked because firstly it addressed the very serious issue of under-resourcing, and secondly I think because its timing co-incided with a revulsion at Al-Qaeda behaviour. Without the second, the surge would have needed to be much bigger.
Political ability on the part of the Americans has been proven to be intellectually lazy in ignoring the lessons of Vietnam and other insurgencies. Soldiering should have turned to policing much much faster, more personnel would have been required but you would have had more intelligence interactions as policing is about interacting with other civil institutions first and being aggressive second as opposed to soldiering which is about defending positions first, engaging with society second.

It was never the case that we could have been out in 12-24 months. After the invasion, the government collapsed completely, as did civil society. This was a function of the society that Saddam had built, and was nothing directly to do with either Bush or Blair.

Thus,even without an insurgency, it would have taken longer than that to have rebuilt the structures and nurse them into action.

Where it went wrong in southern Iraq was in the reluctance of the British to take over the reins of government, insisting on handing power to fragile and often corrupt Iraqi institutions before they were properly constituted and ready to take responsibility.

As to dealing with the insurgency, the coalition forces were equipped largely for fighting a conventional war - equipment which was largely unsuitable for coounter-insurgency warfare.

The large numbers of troops there at the end of the conventional phase would not, therefore, have helped that much. First, the armies had to be re-equipped and restructured. The US was slow to start doing this but, when it did, it took on the process with speed. That laid the foundations for the surge, without which it could not have succeeded.

The British, however, failed to embrace the need for re-equipment and restructuring, doing too little, too late, leading to their inability to deal with a full-blown insurgency.

Looking at it in the round, if the troops had departed earlier, before Muqtaqda al Sadr had declared his hand, the new infant Iraqi government would have had to deal with the insurgency, and would probably have been destroyed by it.

We, therefore, should always have been looking at a longer time frame and been ready to adapt to changing circumstances. In the final analysis, it was our failure to adapt that led to the inability of the military to deal with the insurgency. For that, we can blame Blair and Brown, but the military command cannot escape some responsibility.

Can't remember you saying any of this at the time Richard North, hindsight is a wonderful thing don't you agree?
As regards the people of Basra demanding that we didn't withdraw where do you get your facts from? By 2006 we governed Basra only after making compromises with the militia groups and when they turned against us the result was a foregone conclusion.
Mike Jackson and the politicians responsible for this sorry state of affairs will no doubt be heavily criticised by an enquiry which is why they are so anxious to prevent it happening.
Your comments about the Conservative Party are as always unbearably pompous and untrue.

Malcome - clearly, you do not read my website ... I've been writing about this since October 2005, when I decided to add Iraqi military issues to my blog. But then, you wouldn't want to read stuff like that ... you might learn something.

Apologies ... typo ... Malcolm

And BTW ... charges of pomposity are an easy jibe, and especially easy when you wnt to avoid engagement and make a cheap shot. Look to your own and tell me when there has been a serious debate in Parliament about re-equipment to deal with counter-insurgency issues, much less on this blog or on Centre Right.

Then look through the 500 plus posts on my blog Defence of the Realm - and the comments made by the Defence Procurement Minister, and then come back and tell me that there is a vibrant debare going on in the CP.

I do read your blog from time to time even though it has a huge propensity to pomposity and repitition. Don't recall you ever writing about the residents of Basra asking the British Army to stay but I might be wrong about that.
My sources of information on what's happened in Basra are anyway far better than your blog. You might do well to correspond with some of our troops who serve out there. Then indeed you might learn something. You might also like to learn to spell my name correctly. More polite don't you think?

Read the second post ... where I corrected the typo and apologised. Pompous? Pot? Kettle? Black?

I am not going to get into a dick measuring contest about sources with you ... you can measure your own dick if that keeps you happy. That the Basra residents and the the president largely wanted the troops to stay is a matter of public record, and a number of officers in theatre were saying the same thing at the time ... which is also a matter of public record.

That, therefore, I did not need to say at the time. Hindsight is not required. The substantive issue, however, is the matter of re-equipment and restructuring of the Army to deal with the counter-insurgency. That I was saying at the time and have been saying so every since, which you will thus know if you so diligently read the blog, having obviously detected the repetition of the theme.

I'm not sure of the rightness of getting into Iraq in the first place, but yes, once we were there, we should have finished the job. I think Portillo has a point (for once I seem to agree with him), and I wonder how much the liberal-left media, and politicians who seem to make their decisions based on ‘public opinion’ manipulated by it, is to blame for untimely cut-back in troops in Basra abadoning it, as alleged by Portillo, to "fundamentalist thugs" and failure to secure even a medium seized conurbation.

There is a bizarre - nay completely bonkers - piece in the Scotland on Sunday by Michael Gove exulting in the UKs huge success in Basra.
And some people still wonder why the Tories aren't a lot more popular..........

I have just read the comments again. I am indeed surprised just how much of the US spin has been swallowed by contributors. Deaths in Iraq as a direct result of the lawless chaos that country is still largely in are running at about 500 per week.
All the oil installations are secure however.
The UK withdrawal however is even more reprehensible. There were well over 1 million Christians in Basra when we invaded, protected by Saddam Hussains brutal secular state which executed religious zealots with enthusiasm. There are now no Christains in the south of Iraq. Their shops, homes and businesses are gutted,their churches are burnt to the ground and they are penniless in Syria, Jordan or indeed UK.

You wish to understand the absence of Christians in South Iraq, look at Syria, look at Lebanon and then look at Iran.
In south has been proxy wars. To distance national responsibilities has proxy been used, why else in land of Al-Mailiki have friends turned to vipers? And local determination is very difficult to achieve, This was the failure of the British, to understand this.
This is why American strategy has to be across the three nations, without it, you will have problems that make nuclear Pakistan look like Politics 101.
Finish job. No, job is trans-national, until you accept this beginning , you will be fighting shadow-battles.

I'm disappointed with William Hague's commitment to us sending more troops to Afghanistan (Andrew Marr show this morning).

When will our politicians recognise that sending our troops as cannon fodder to this desert is futile. Of course it's all to do with oil pipelines and impressing the US.

If only the Tories would waken up to the feelings in the country about Iraq and Afghanistan. Too many lies have been told about why we're there and the people believe them.

I certainly don't as I've read the history of the country and also have close family risking their lives on an hourly basis over there.

Is it protecting the UK. No.

The goal of the work in Iraq and Afghanistan is worthwhile,
What is difficult to take is the intellectual laziness of the detail of how to achieve those aims.
Every star on ground needs 3-10 logistics staff ( on the ground (2-4) and at home on the manufacture to make logistics effective (1-2) and politicos to fund logistics and munny (4-6). Labour have failed absolutely on politicos, cut back on finance and thus sent less logistics.
Huffer-Puffer Hoon, Bullshit Blair, Run Gordon.
Kit and its quality are important and you don't see HSE in the sharp end here.
Who listens back at Inventory Central:
Insurance Man:
And I tell you I throw the last in with vicious intention.
Hobble the horse, laugh at the race.

Sorry didn't see your apology Richard, there is sometimes a time lag before comments are published.
Not interested in a dick measuring contest either but I do suggest you talk to serving army officers in Iraq, it would make you less likely to make the ill informed posts an example of which is above.

Malcolm - all I can say is that you are in the right party. Yours is a classic of the genre ... a wild assumption (that I do not talk to serving officers - and other ranks - in Iraq) and then a sweeping assertion which displays the very pomposity of which you accuse me.

The quick descent in ad hominem combined with a refusal to engage with the substantive points, makes this is a fine illustration of why it is a complete waste of time trying to have a sensible (or any) discussion on this board - at least while there are people like you around.

Prattle all you like ... I'm gone.

No argument from me about re-equipment of the Army, Richard.Not sure what restructuring you have in mind, but the biggest problem was less the structure and more the simple lack of bodies on the ground, particularly true when the British Army had responsibility for large parts of southen Iraq which was when most of the deals with the militias were done.
I rather doubt that requests for the soldiers to stay from many Basra residents or indeed serving soldiers were a matter of public record. Largely because it simply isn't true. Any soldier would have confirmed this.
Sorry you don't like it when people disagree with you but that's really just tough. A successful politician would try to persuade rather than simply storm off in a huff.

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