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Old 05-28-2010   #41
Red Rat
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Default The British In Iraq

http://www.guardian.co.uk/defence-chiefs-gag-iraq-report

The Iraq Inquiry is going to make interesting reading when it comes out. I believe General Brown is now retired and is due to give evidence again at the Iraq Inquiry which could prove enlightening.

As ever there is the issue of what the British did in Iraq and why, but also how they are going to learn from it. I had a commanding officer who maintained a 3 strikes rule:

F*** up once - fine, everyone makes mistakes, it's how we learn
F*** up twice (same mistake) - first warning; you should have learned last time.
F*** up again and you're fired!

Problem is that on an organisational level if you are not willing to admit and confront mistakes, to discuss them openly, then you are never going to learn.
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Old 05-28-2010   #42
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Originally Posted by Red Rat View Post
http://www.guardian.co.uk/defence-chiefs-gag-iraq-report

The Iraq Inquiry is going to make interesting reading when it comes out. I believe General Brown is now retired and is due to give evidence again at the Iraq Inquiry which could prove enlightening.

As ever there is the issue of what the British did in Iraq and why, but also how they are going to learn from it. I had a commanding officer who maintained a 3 strikes rule:

F*** up once - fine, everyone makes mistakes, it's how we learn
F*** up twice (same mistake) - first warning; you should have learned last time.
F*** up again and you're fired!

Problem is that on an organisational level if you are not willing to admit and confront mistakes, to discuss them openly, then you are never going to learn.
Sadly warfare is an unforgiving environment. In many (if not most) cases where lives are lost there can be no second chance.
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Old 05-28-2010   #43
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For myself I really only have one pressing question.
Ulster has about 1.2 million in the 1970's people and at the height the emergency there were 27,000+ troops and 70+ plus helicopters.

Basra is a city of 3.5 million people. IIRC at most we had 4 BGs from Op Telic II onwards. How was 1 Brigade(+) ever going to be enough?

Here the MOD Stats:
Peak during Major Combat Operations (March/April 2003): 46,000 (including those stationed outside of Iraq in support of the operation)
At the end of May 2003: 18,000
At the end of May 2004: 8,600
At the end of May 2005: 8,500
At the end of May 2006: 7,200
At the end of May 2007: 5,500
At the end of May 2008: 4,100 (in southern Iraq)
At the end of May 2009: 4,100 (in southern Iraq)
At the end of Jan 2010: 150
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Last edited by William F. Owen; 05-28-2010 at 02:30 PM. Reason: Figures added
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Old 05-28-2010   #44
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Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
For myself I really only have one pressing question.

Ulster has about 1.2 million in the 1970's people and at the height the emergency there were 27,000+ troops and 70+ plus helicopters.

Basra is a city of 3.5 million people. IIRC at most we had 4 BGs from Op Telic II onwards. How was 1 Brigade(+) ever going to be enough?
It wasn't. General Shirreff makes that clear.

Quote:
Basra itself seemed to me to be the key issue... What I found when I arrived was effectively no security at all... There was a significant lack of troops on the ground.

I think that when I went out on my recce in May 2006, the single battalion commander responsible for a city of 1.3 million people told me that he could put no more then 13 half platoons or multiples on the ground, less then 200 soldiers on the ground, in a city of 1.3 million. You compare that with what I recall as a young platoon commander in West Belfast in the late 1970s when there was a brigade on the ground.

http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/General Shirreff.pdf

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Last edited by davidbfpo; 11-05-2011 at 04:35 PM. Reason: Fix 2nd quote
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Old 05-29-2010   #45
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It wasn't. General Shirreff makes that clear.
Agreed. I head blokes saying this in 2004/5. Thus my question still stands. We all know we got it wrong. Why has never been explained.
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- The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 05-29-2010   #46
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Thus my question still stands. We all know we got it wrong. Why has never been explained.
Does the common perception of neo-con strategy explain the lack of boots-on-ground? As in, does:

a) the preponderance of technology and air-power, network-ified forces and the understanding of manoeuvrist doctrine amongst the military was such that they were so 'force multiplied' that they didn't need to obey conventional principles such as mass and concentration, and

b) the inevitable march of democracy ensuring a liberated Iraqi population would embrace the concept of a post-Saddam elected government,

explain the why?

I've heard this touted as the key reasons behind American mis-calculations and I wonder if this extended to the British High Command as well.

Or c), was this a hypothetical question casting a wry and cynical view upon the ability of the modern military to apply history and common sense to the contemporary environment, which I have subsequently proceeded to completely misconstrue?
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Old 05-29-2010   #47
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Default A point of view

Why did the UK fail in southern Iraq, an area dominated by the city of Basra?

I shall leave alone the in country military strategy and tactics followed.

What puzzled me and I suspect others was why the UK stayed in Iraq after Tony Blair handed the Prime Minister's job to Gordon Brown in June 2007 (after winning an election in 2005), who we are told was never enthusiastic IIRC on the intervention. The war was unpopular across the UK, notably, but not exclusively in the traditional areas of Labour Party electoral support. Politically IMHO it would have made political sense - electorally - for Gordon Brown to exit quickly and this was - allegedly - discussed.

The UK in Southern Iraq sat astride the MSR from Kuwait and such announced exit would have alarmed the USA, being polite. The 'surge' was announced in January 2007 and major operations started in June 2007. Not a time for redeploying US forces to replace the UK.

The UK government decided it was necessary to stay, but without a commitment to allocate a level of resources to do more than the minimum and secure the MSR. The price of the 'special relationship' I suggest?

Note in June 2006 the UK decided to deploy for the first time to Helmand Province, which became unpopular at home too.
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Old 06-01-2010   #48
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Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
Agreed. I head blokes saying this in 2004/5. Thus my question still stands. We all know we got it wrong. Why has never been explained.
The British Operation in Basra was clearly an economy of force operation and was understood as such by all (although never explicitly stated). From a Coalition perspective I think that as long as the MSRs were secured it was recognised that Basra issues could be dealt with after the more pressing issues of baghdad and the Sunni Triangle.

In terms of domestic political context, no UK Government would have been able to increase troop numbers to the numbers necessary to secure Basra. The over-riding driver in UK government thinking since about 2005 appears to have been short term (domestic) political expediency, I have not seen a great deal of evidence of long term strategic planning, nor of a willingness to engage with detailed analysis of issues, especially of possible consequences (if this, then this).

I also suspect that Afghanistan was ramped up (in terms of British military contribution) to allow the UK to adopt a time based draw down policy in Iraq without embarrassing the UK or the US (the UK could state that it did not have the troops to do both Iraq and Afghanistan and so was focusing on Afghanistan - and in doing so was continuing to help the US which was focused in Iraq and did not want to increase numbers in Afghanistan).

It will be fascinating when the Iraq Inquiry publishes to see what the strategic thinking was and what the strategic decision making process was.
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Old 06-01-2010   #49
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Originally Posted by Red Rat View Post
The British Operation in Basra was clearly an economy of force operation and was understood as such by all (although never explicitly stated). From a Coalition perspective I think that as long as the MSRs were secured it was recognised that Basra issues could be dealt with after the more pressing issues of baghdad and the Sunni Triangle.
So why have forces inside Basra?

The issue of strategy is even more opaque. Clearly there was no strategy. I want to know what the policy was!
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- The job of the British Army out here is to kill or capture Communist Terrorists in Malaya.
- If we can double the ratio of kills per contact, we will soon put an end to the shooting in Malaya.
Sir Gerald Templer, foreword to the "Conduct of Anti-Terrorist Operations in Malaya," 1958 Edition
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Old 06-01-2010   #50
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So why have forces inside Basra?
Because until PIC(Provincial Iraqi Control) had happened the UK still had to appear to be in charge. The conundrum then comes about what happens when the presence of your forces highlights that you are not in charge

Quote:
Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
The issue of strategy is even more opaque. Clearly there was no strategy. I want to know what the policy was!
Sadly I think you are right on the strategy. In terms of policy I think the policy was twofold:

1) Not to rock the coalition boat
2) Satisfy domestic political pressures (which meant for the most part being seen not to take casualties and to be getting out).
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Old 09-29-2010   #51
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Default Secret Iraq: BBC documentary

A BBC TV documentary tonight, which I missed and is now (1st Oct). Yes it may not be available in some places:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00v3qt5

Short news story:http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11419878

Just checked the programme website and not yet ready to view.

A "taster" or attention grabbing, you decide:
Quote:
The British army suffered defeat in Iraq when it pulled out of Basra, a senior American general has argued.
UK forces left the city in 2007, leaving the people to be "terrorised", key White House adviser Gen Jack Keane told the BBC.
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Last edited by davidbfpo; 09-30-2010 at 07:01 AM. Reason: Update that BBC I player is now working
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Old 09-29-2010   #52
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Not withstanding the info above, I think it may have been quite simple.

After the end of the official warfighting phase of OIF and then the start of the insurgency, the British sincerely believed that they were on top of the COIN campaign due to their decades of experience in Northern Ireland and previous success in Malaya and Kenya. What they didn't pick up on and which took some years for the penny to drop is that COIN truisms don't translate easily between environment and that the UK approach of treating the Iraqi insurgency as they would one in a Commonwealth or Western-oriented nation was doomed from the start.

To make matters worse, a number of Brits, mainly at quite senior levels, felt that they had some form of almost God-given superiority over the US (small nation syndrome) and this attitude was probably a major factor in the long period it took the UK to realise they had gotten it wrong and adapting accordingly - had the attitude being more of learning from others had been, perhaps the case for more troops earlier could have successfully been made?

Nowhere have I heard it summed up better than senior UK officer last year "...really..instead of sniping at the Americans from the sidelines of our own superiority, we should have been following them around with our notebooks open, furiously taking notes..."
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Old 09-30-2010   #53
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There was certainly an embarrassing degree of hubris mixed with schadenfreude in the early days.

Both the US and the UK got it wrong in Iraq to begin with. The US learned, adapted and persevered. It took longer for the chickens to come home to roost in the Brit AO, but we certainly failed to learn and adapt as quickly or as effectively as the US. We also singularly failed to resource effectively.

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Originally Posted by SJPONeill View Post
To make matters worse, a number of Brits, mainly at quite senior levels, felt that they had some form of almost God-given superiority over the US (small nation syndrome) and this attitude was probably a major factor in the long period it took the UK to realise they had gotten it wrong and adapting accordingly - had the attitude being more of learning from others had been, perhaps the case for more troops earlier could have successfully been made?
Hmmm. All the Post Operational Interviews I have read of Brit senior officers (2 stars and above) are highly complimentary of US efforts from 2005 onwards. I am not as well versed in views prior to 2005, but I am aware that it was always recognised that the US forces were involved in a very different war in the north.

One reason it took the UK longer to adapt is that violence levels never really picked up in the south until the end of 2005 and into 2006. That made it appear that the Brit approach was working - as well reinforcing our smug assumptions of superiority

It is true that the British Army thought that it had COIN in its DNA, whereas while senior officers were well educated and experienced in COIN junior officers (up to Lt Col) were less so. Northern Ireland (as a campaign) had settled down by the mid 1980s and we stopped formally teaching COIN in the late 90s. So while many officers and commanders had Northern Ireland experience they had actually learnt very little from their time there beyond low level TTPs. The history of the campaign and the hard learnt lessons therin were not widely known. We took most of the processes, especially with regards to ISTAR, targeting and the use of SF for granted. We had excellent COIN doctrine which was certainly fit for purpose, but we never taught it, read it or applied it...

The case for more troops is an interesting one. I do not think we would have been able to make a case for more troops until the violence levels rose. By then it was clear that UK domestic politics would prevent any significant rise in troop levels. Strategic direction was clear, 'get out'. Afghanistan provided the excuse.
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Last edited by Red Rat; 09-30-2010 at 12:47 PM.
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Old 11-05-2011   #54
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Default The price of peace: the Army officer betrayed by the Iraqis he tried to help

A long article today, based on a new book and sub-titled:
Quote:
Capt Richard Holmes's bridge-building approach helped set the template for a new military strategy in Iraq. But he was betrayed by the very people whose trust he worked so hard to win.
Link:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worl...d-to-help.html

The book is 'A War of Choice: The British in Iraq 2003-9 by Jack Fairweather and published by Jonathan Cape, 20.

Link:http://www.amazon.co.uk/War-Choice-B.../dp/0224089587
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Old 10-19-2016   #55
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Default British Army in Iraq AAR declassified

Ret'd Brigadier Ben Barry, now @ IISS, has finally been able to publish his report; which was classified by the MoD and cited in the Chilcot Report. Less than 1% was still redacted. Just why it was not published before now eludes me, alas it is typically British.

Quote:
The aim was to analyse the land tactical lessons from the Iraq campaign from 2005–2009. In the event, the report's analysis had to go back to the immediate aftermath of the 2003 invasion, as the actions of the US-led coalition between then and 2005 set the conditions for subsequent events.
It was based on a year's work, which included analysis of all Army post-operation reports, hundreds of interviews and a two-day conference of a hundred senior officers. Its draft was reviewed by a reference group comprised of a dozen serving and retired British general officers with Iraq experience.
There is an 18 pg Executive Summary and three PDFs for the other 240 pgs on this link:http://www.iiss.org/en/iiss%20voices...lassified-953d

There is a hour long podcast too:https://www.iiss.org/en/events/event...q-inquiry-dd6c

You will hear stress that the US military learnt quicker, often helped from "bottom up" and the part of blogs too.

He noted that neither the RAF or RN & Royal Marines had conducted a similar exercise.

Finally he commended this book 'Operation Telic: The British Campaign in Iraq 2003-2009' by Tim Ripley, a journalist, published in November 2014:https://www.amazon.co.uk/Operation-T...lic+tim+ripley

Or for US$20:https://www.amazon.com/Operation-Tel...ct_top?ie=UTF8
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Old 10-22-2016   #56
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Thanks for the links. Now if I can only find the time to read all this!
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