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Iraq

Speech by General Sir David Richards KCB CBE DSO ADC Gen ,Chief of Defence Staff, The Policy Exchange, Monday 22nd November 2010

Over the past month I have been getting to grips with my new appointment as Chief of the Defence Staff. Whilst I do not have time to ponder it too much, I am genuinely still somewhat baffled how I have ended up in this position. The 18 year old boy who joined 29 Commando Regiment to follow his brother would not recognise the rather care-worn man who stands before you – and would have quailed at the thought of high rank dismissing it without doubt as ridiculous anyway.

The job will not be simple, but it will be made easier by the fact that I know I will be supported by some of the most capable, dedicated and selfless soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines that this country has ever produced. And by the civilians in the MOD who have again and again demonstrated their skills and commitment.

I am not going to dwell on people in this talk other than to say that if we fail to attract and retain the very high quality people that historically join the British Armed Forces, our prospects for the future will diminish markedly. They lie at the heart of military capability. I am not certain the consequences of failing in this are always fully appreciated. People tend to focus more on the kit and metal than the people.

Over the next decade we will need every ounce of their dedication because the issues that we, in Defence as a whole, have to address are diverse and challenging. And, as was the case with every one of my predecessors, I recognise that the outcome of our efforts must meet the very real challenges confronting us. It is vital for the future security of our nation.

I speak at a time when all three services are heavily committed to operations. In Afghanistan, off the Horn of Africa, in the Gulf and in the Falkland Islands, to name a few prominent examples, the Navy, Army and Air Force are together ensuring the UK's interests are defended. They and the civilians who work alongside them across the Ministry of Defence, and indeed on operations themselves, have rarely been pushed so hard. Current commitments demand our endurance and test our resolve. But I have no doubt that with the support of the people of this country – support not only for who we are but for what we do – the Armed Forces will meet every challenge thrown at us. I am confident that they will not let you down.

I wanted to talk to you this evening about three things:

First, the National Security Strategy which is the guiding document for our analysis. It set the strategic context for and then shaped the Strategic Defence and Security Review, as it will the follow-on work. It is, in military speak, our Commander's Intent.
Secondly, the Review itself; the options we had, the choices we made and the military judgments that lay behind them. As with any outcome that is properly strategic in its approach, our military judgments are matched to the resource it is deemed the country can afford. This has required the difficult decisions we have taken to be a reasoned balance of acceptable risks.

And third is Afghanistan; the last in this list but the absolute priority of the National Security Council and the Armed Forces. The Defence Secretary reiterated in parliament this month that it is our main effort. And as I have said in the past, our actions in Afghanistan are vital for the short and long term national security of our country. The consequences of the choices made there will reverberate for many years to come, on international security and stability but also on the ability of Britain to exert influence worldwide.

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By Lauren Williamson

Next year's final withdrawal of US troops from Iraq could pose a serious security threat to the burgeoning democracy. In Middle East Report No. 99, released in October 2010, the International Crisis Group deconstructs the country's complex security framework, outlining ambiguities in protocol and inefficiencies in coordination. Arguing that the country's most significant threat is now internal, the report recommends the Iraqi government act quickly to unify its people and fill any gaps created by the withdrawal of US forces.

The 2008 Status-of-Forces Agreement requires all US forces to fully withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011. With just over a year before deadline, there is much work ahead to ensure Iraq can operate solo. In a recent report by the International Crisis Group (ICG), the think tank deconstructs the country's security framework, outlining ambiguities in protocol and inefficiencies in coordination. The ICG argues that Iraq's future success depends on: 1) unifying and integrating the security forces, and 2) implementing stronger government oversight and accountability measures. But these recommendations are premature, as the March elections have left Iraq's government in political paralysis. The parliamentary tensions must first be addressed before Iraqi leaders shift focus to the country's security forces.

Since the March elections, Iraq's parliament has remained deadlocked in choosing a new leader. Incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki trailed only slightly behind secular Shi'ite candidate Ayad Allawi. US-supported plans for creating a power-sharing government between the groups have not been well-received. Maliki's attempt to secure reappointment has led him to align with Moktada al-Sadr's anti-American Shi'ite Islamist bloc, which analysts say indicates Iran's expanding influence over Iraq. This political environment is sure to stymie any attempt by Iraqi leaders to pursue the ICG's recommendations, as constructive as they may be.

In the report, the ICG carefully details the security framework explaining the various armed entities and six separate intelligence agencies operating within Iraq. A daunting point made by the ICG is that "who controls these various agencies is unclear." Although each agency was individually created to handle differentiated tasks, there exists much overlap which leads to inconsistencies and inefficiencies. Additionally, rivalry has developed between the groups. Such problems link to the US's initial response to the insurgency. To quickly quell the violent upsurge during the civil war years 2005-2007, the US increased quantity – not quality – of security forces. There were no background checks or assurances in loyalties. The ICG argues reversing that trend by focusing on quality of forces, should be the course of action over the next year.

But such efforts would be hampered by the existing inner tensions and public mistrust of the government, particularly amidst Maliki's power grab since 2008. Many Iraqis feel he has exploited the weaknesses in the country's 2005 constitution and that he manipulates security forces to further his own autocratic tendencies and harass political opponents. The ICG suggests the government enforce a hierarchy among the security bodies and set consistent protocol while limiting the political power of any one individual. Yet, if Maliki does secure reappointment, it is doubtful his government would readily support such measures.

Beyond this, the corruption in the country must be addressed. Iraq must therefore combat the problem of ghost soldiers, or soldiers who do not work but take in pay. They must thwart the increase in bribery through which jailed criminals are easily freed and insurgent attackers bypass security checkpoints. The ICG's report does not specifically make recommendations to solve these issues, but it is clear that the government must create an incentive structure that will yield liberal behaviour from citizens. Iraqi quality of life and available economic opportunities must be fruitful enough and legal consequences intimidating enough to make corrupt activities less appealing.

Paternalistic US support may have inadvertently contributed toward stunting the progress of Iraq's internal security. The fear is that when US forces leave in 2011 – taking funding, logistics and equipment with them – it will kick away the crutches too soon. The ICG's report labels the US military as Iraq's "primary bonding agent," but says US military support provides the perfect incentive to offer in return for the Iraqi government adopting a stronger regulatory framework. But this enticement does little to help Iraq create its own bonding agent, and a squabbling parliament is unlikely to easily agree on new regulations which need to be in place before the end of 2011.

Achieving comprehensive security requires a more holistic approach than the one provided by the ICG. One in seven Iraqi men is armed, and the report recommends continued integration of former insurgents into existing forces or public sector employment. However, there are profound ramifications of handling such a surplus of fighters. If quality, not quantity is the way forward, as the ICG suggests, Iraq is facing a significant challenge in reabsorbing former fighters into civilian life. Not only does the country need to offer appealing employment opportunities, but to achieve successful reintegration it must also emphasize re-education. The archetypal grandeur experienced during warfare does not lose its attraction when a war ends, and this psychological desire is hard to quench through the non-combatant roles civilian life offers. It is possible that these individuals will seek fighting elsewhere, becoming liabilities to Iraq's internal security.

The report states "no external threat appears on the horizon" for Iraq. The ICG maintains that insurgent groups are not strong enough to topple the government. Such statements may be harmful if they contribute to a false sense of confidence about the capabilities of the deeply divided government. Iraq's internal tensions might make the country more vulnerable to external threats.

While the report offers a solid analysis of Iraq's security workings and provides recommendations for reviving the regulatory architecture that governs them, it is insufficient in setting a path for achieving total security for the burgeoning democracy. Solving the political deadlock and attaining inner cohesion should be the top priority. In fact, the Strategic Framework Agreement of 2008, which roughly outlines the longer-term Iraqi-US relationship, may need to be amended as troops depart, to allow for a more comprehensive approach in achieving
security for the country.

This article was originally written for and published by The Majalla.

The International Crisis Group report can be accessed here.

 

Statement made to the House of Commons by Rt Hon John Hutton MO, UK Secretary of State for Defence

I wish to make a statement on the results of a recent MOD review of records of detention resulting from security operations carried out by UK Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is essential I believe that our Armed Forces are able to detain people who pose a real threat, either to our troops, those of our allies, or to the local population that we are seeking to protect. These operations are conducted by our forces with courage, integrity and professionalism and in undertaking these operations we take fully into account our obligations under international law.

In February last year, allegations were made that persons captured by UK forces in Iraq were transferred to US detention facilities were mistreated and removed unlawfully from Iraq.

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To the members of the British Forces who have served on OP TELIC.

Congratulations on a job well done! Today's restructuring of Multi-National Division South East command in Basra and the transfer of security responsibilities in Basra marks a historic occasion. On behalf of the American service members who have served proudly alongside you in Iraq, I would like to thank you for your hard work and sacrifice over the last six years.

You and your comrades in arms have helped produce important achievements. Your expert assistance has been instrumental in building and professionalizing the new Iraqi Navy and Marines. During Operation Charge of the Knights a year

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The Chief of the Defence Staff, ACM Sir Jock Stirrup, has sent the following message to British armed forces:

Today is a significant milestone for our Armed Forces. After more than six years, we are handing over residual coalition responsibilities in Basra to our US allies. The British land campaign in Iraq, which started in March 2003, will come to an end and our remaining personnel will be coming home. In the same vein, the RAF will shortly end 19 years of operations over Iraq.

Whatever debate continues about the lead up to the invasion in 2003, whatever Coalition mistakes were made along the way, we can be clear on one thing: the UK Armed Forces have made an outstanding contribution to the transition of Iraq from

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Insurgents in Iraq have hacked into live video feeds from unmanned American drone aircraft, US media reports say.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/2/hi/middle_east/8419147.stm

 

Have the lessons of Iraq been fully evaluated, taken to heart, and transferred to Afghanistan. Richard North - an occasional contributor to Defence Viewpoints and an assiduous blogger under Defence of the Realm - published a book "Ministry of Defeat, aiming squarely at this question, which was published in hardback on 31st May.

A reviewer wrote:

"Ministry of Defeat" is the first and only forensic examination of the political and military failures by the British in Iraq. As the government, the media and the army were quick to downplay the unfolding catastrophe as the birth pangs of democracy, the evidence from the front line was telling a very different story. Ministry of Defeat explores that evidence and paints a picture of Southern Iraq very different to the popular narrative.

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Mark Urban's book Task Force Black.
Published by Little, Brown (ISBN: 978 1 4087 0264 2)

Reviewed by Roger Green, Principal Reviewer, U K Defence Forum

Mark Urban is an established Diplomatic and Defence Editor for BBC Newsnight who has a well-deserved reputation as an author of military history as well as contemporary books about Special Forces and British intelligence. He is probably unique in that he has managed to cultivate a range of credible contacts within the Special Forces (SF) without which this authoritative book would probably not have been possible.

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The US Department of Defence has confirmed that the following members of US'Armed Forces have died in the service of their country during July 2009. It does not release eulogies as is the practice of the UK MoD so we are unable to provide further details.

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Afghanistan

Conspicuous Gallantry Cross: Corporal Robert William Kerr McClurg, R Irish; Acting Sergeant Alwyn John Stevens, R Irish; Lance Corporal Jone Bruce Toge, R Irish.

Bar to George Medal: Warrant Officer class 2 Gary James O'Donnell GM, RLC (Killed in Action)

George Medal: Staff Sergeant Stuart Walter Dickson RLC

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