TOP BRITISH GENERAL: IT’S TIME TO LEAVE IRAQ….Ah. This is interesting. Remember a couple of weeks ago I posted an item about a secret memo suggesting that the Chief of Staff of the British Army wanted to get out of Iraq? The only question I had was: which Chief of Staff did the memo refer to? The previous guy who retired at the end of August, or the new guy who took over from him? Today the Daily Mail answers my question: it’s the new guy. Here’s what General Sir Richard Dannatt told them:
“I think history will show that the planning for what happened after the initial successful war-fighting phase was poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning.
….”The hope that we might have been able to get out of Iraq in 12, 18, 24 months after the initial start in 2003 has proved fallacious. Now hostile elements have got a hold it has made our life much more difficult in Baghdad and in Basra.”
….Sir Richard adds, strongly, that we should “get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates the security problems”. “We are in a Muslim country and Muslims’ views of foreigners in their country are quite clear. As a foreigner, you can be welcomed by being invited into a country, but we weren’t invited, certainly by those in Iraq at the time. Let’s face it, the military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in.”
All in all, this is a pretty extraordinary interview. The BBC’s Nick Robinson calls it a “very public warning” to the next prime minister. Doug Henderson, a former defence minister, told Newsnight, “One can only assume that Sir Richard has made his views known privately and that they’ve been ignored.”
That’s true. The secret memo made it clear that Dannatt tried to privately broker a deal last month to pull British troops out of Iraq and transfer them to Afghanistan, where he thinks we still have a chance to make a difference, but was turned down. Now he’s gone public. I wonder if there are any American generals who agree with him?