Sunday, August 19, 2007

Cut, run and hide

This is shameful. The Americans are going to end up in Basra as well to fix the mess that we leave.

In Britain, Gordon Brown's government has tried to depict a quiet process of handover to Iraqi troops in Basra, which will see the remaining forces in the city withdraw to the airport in November.

What US generals see, however, is a close ally preparing to "cut and run", leaving behind a city in the grip of a power struggle between Shia militias that could determine the fate of the Iraqi government and the country as a whole. With signs of the surge yielding tentative progress in Baghdad, but at the cost of many American lives, there could scarcely be a worse time for a parting of the ways. Yet the US military has no doubt, despite what Gordon Brown claims, that the pullout is being driven by "the political situation at home in the UK".


For far too long senior commanders encouraged the view that the British Army, with its long experience of peace-keeping operations in Northern Ireland, had done a better job than the trigger-happy Americans in restoring law and order to the four Iraqi provinces they administered, following Saddam's overthrow.

By comparison [with the Surge operations], the British garrison in Basra, which for so long lorded it over its American coalition partners as Iraq's lone success story, finds itself at its most beleaguered, with an estimated 450 rockets being fired at the British airbase on the outskirts of Basra in the past three months alone.

While British commanders on the ground bitterly resent suggestions that their mission has failed - they point out that Basra, unlike the rest of the country, has adequate supplies of electricity and water - there is a growing belief among American commanders that the British have become casualty-averse and are only doing the bare minimum in terms of maintaining a military presence on the streets of Basra.

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