A Phased UK Withdrawal

Ww Wayne White is retired senior officer of the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research.  He has given me permission to post this.  pl
A point seemingly missed in much early coverage of the UK withdrawal from the south (that I have seen, at least) is the potential impact of that withdrawal on the eventual withdrawal of US forces.
There already has been discussion of how vital the Baghdad-Kuwait supply line is for ongoing US operations, and this concern is well-founded.  The south is not as has been portrayed in some upbeat UK and US official comments today.  Southern Iraq is a very much troubled region where most localities are dominated by militias (sometimes rival militias), governance (to the extent governance linked to Baghdad exists at all beyond the symbolic in large areas) is tenuous, security forces are in most cases far more loyal to militias (often local, semi-autonomous militia elements) than legal authorities (such as the mayor of Basrah), criminality (including large-scale oil & fuel smuggling) is endemic, and low-level assassinations of the relatively few Sunni Arabs still present there is ongoing.  When, late last year, British forces attempted to turn over a major base to the Iraqi military (and more bases are to be left behind as UK forces phase out), it was thoroughly looted.
Levels of overall violence are dramatically lower in the south only because of the area’s relatively homogenous Shi’a population and its distance from Sunni Arab insurgent strongholds to the north, not significant advantages in governance and the deployment of security forces loyal to formal civil authority.  As British forces gradually pull out, the south will likely fall deeper into misgovernance, militia domination and crime.
The current problem of resupply from Kuwait aside, when US forces pull out of Iraq (and this is a "when," not an "if," by anyone’s definition), it could prove difficult to move large numbers of personnel and millions of tons of weapon systems, equipment and supplies through this volitile area (an otherwise preferred route).   In addition, the seemingly inevitable damage to bases and airfields left behind by the British probably would further complicate the issue of withdrawal for the US.
If all this weren’t enough, the current Baghdad surge (an iffy proposition to begin with) also may well be affected adversely.  For example, Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army has a large presence in the south–even near-control in some neighborhoods and localities.  To the extent Sadr’s organization and its Mahdi Army are pressured in Baghdad, and with the British presence thinning in the south, many leaders and cadres can simply take refuge with even greater ease beyond the effective reach of US forces and what passes for a government in Baghdad for the duration of the surge.
Wayne White
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41 Responses to A Phased UK Withdrawal

  1. Will says:

    The Coronet of Wales, while protected by the SAS, will safeguard our lines of communications. Never Fear.

  2. PSD says:

    thanks for posting this, Colonel.
    So much for Cheney’s rosy-glow interpretation of the Brits withdrawal as proof that southern Iraq is pacified….
    one thing about the neocons is their consistency–they’ve never seen a glass that’s half empty. Their glasses are ALWAYS half full, even when there’s no visible trace of anything at all in the glass.

  3. b says:

    Prince Harry will hold the line. Blue blood is worth a regiment.
    More seriously: Blair said one regiment will leave within six month. The Iran campaign may be underway by then and the Brits will push in reenforcements.

  4. ali says:

    Shall we be realistic.
    No 10 is whispering a very discrete no to expanding the war. It’s politically impossible for even a whipped spaniel like Mr Tony to follow the POTUS into that breach.
    There are less than 10,000 Squadies in Iraq. They are out numbered 5 to one by mercenaries. Increasingly they’ve been off the streets and in their bases if not roaming round the empty desert in search of the ghost of T.E Lawrence.
    They are very good at what they do and have been better lead than in many a war; but cursed by the foolish politics of freedoms march they have not succeeded in Basra.
    The best neo-colonial army in the world does not have the ability to protect US supply lines. They simply lack the domestic public support not to mention armor to persist if the South mutinies. This is not unlikely.
    There’s an army still running fruitlessly round Al Anbar that is fit for the task.
    It’s time to think about withdrawal in some order rather than clinging to the helicopter skids and focus on averting the greater war that is beginning.

  5. zanzibar says:

    As Iraq continues to descend into further chaos and militia fiefdoms the Brits seeing the writing on the wall have pushed Blair into getting out. With the British force continuously getting mortar’d and shot at Blair and his Kool-Aid drinkers had to bow to the pressure from inside the military command just for the Labor party to survive. Unlike here where the Decider and the Shooter don’t care about the prospects of their party and continue to use their propaganda machine of the corporate media to spout increasingly incoherent and delusional arguments in defense of their disasterous policies. Note Shooter keeps pounding absolutely incredulous propaganda like a withdrawal would only validate Al Qaeda while at the same time claiming the Brits withdrawal shows how stable and secure southern Iraq is. And there’s no one challenging this guy who has zero credibility on any of these issues. Even worse no one making a big deal of the fact that he was central to weakening our WMD intelligence posture through the deliberate outing of a CIA covert agent for domestic political reasons as has been shown through evidence in the Libby trial.
    What we have is an executive brach off the rails and there is no hue and cry to change that situation or to hold them accountable. What a state of affairs????

  6. Sgt.York says:

    When the US launches the belligerent and cowardly sneak-attack against Iran (ala, Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor), it sure will be handy to have all those soldiers in Baghdad to protect the Green Zone.

  7. arbogast says:

    Why does everyone ignore the political side?
    This war was never about war. It’s about domestic American politics.
    Now, Joe Liberman is about to switch parties. The Iraq war is all but won.

  8. Will says:

    this guy is no Admiral Canaris.
    Thank God for Gates & Company
    “In response to my question about how he rated the odds of a bombing campaign against Iran, R. James Woolsey, the former CIA director, hummed an answer for me on the sidewalk as we exited the Metropolitan Club. It was a parody of the Beach Boys hit “Barbara Ann” — “Bomb Bomb Bomb, Bomb-Bomb Iran.” ”
    from Armand deBorchgrave
    Woolsely doesn’t care for the troops in Iraq, except using them as an opportunistic trigger for an Iran strike

  9. kevin says:

    Ten bucks says the Blair won’t withdrawal troops. He is placing pressure on the democrat congress.

  10. pbrownlee says:

    The Iraq Study Group’s “lifeline” recommendations are being implemented by some of the Coalition of the Willing but apparently not others. Evidently there are drowning men who will not clutch at straws; I imagine it helps if the actual drowning is done by proxy.

  11. geoff says:

    Is white speaking with the assumption that we plan on leaving Iraq someday?

  12. Will says:

    the plain text of the link didn’t work (it cut off some text) so I”ll do it w/ the detested HTML
    Barbara Ann and Iran

  13. OmGonz says:

    Obviously the UK Parliamentarian sysem has forced TBlair to act as a responsible member of the international community. US Republic system doesnt have the same influence (although there are ways). When UK Basra redeployment leaves vacuum in Basra and the vacuum is filled by further violence and death would the US admin not use the consequence of leaving as an “I told you so” to continue their already-failed vision of US hegemony? Should US opposition to neocon world vision focus on limiting consequences of civil war in Iraq by strategically redeploying and intervening in humanitarian crisis only?

  14. Will says:

    the de novo Army of Northern Virginia is presently deconstructing the Bush-Cheney presidency.
    First they asked for some masking tape, a flip chart, and post-it notes, and then
    “Early this morning the jury asked for an easel and pictures of all the witnesses, and it seemed likely they wanted to map out some sort of diagram or timeline for the case. Since there is both an MIT Ph.d and a mathematician on the jury, it’s also seems likely that the jury is taking a reasoned approach to determining a verdict. That does not bode well for Ted Wells’ highly emotional, “give me back my baby Scooter” entreaties. ”

  15. Steve Jones says:

    Arbogast, war is a continuation of politics by other means, yes. But war is also the last resort when all else has failed. Even GWB has said as much. That boy must have a forked tongue.
    If the “war” – which we won in April, 2003, by the way – is about domestic American politics, then it is long past time for impeachment proceedings to begin.
    The “war” was sold, badly, to a fickle American public looking for revenge for the 9/11 attack. Now, that fickle public has changed its tiny mind, for which may God forgive it. I can’t.
    Now our troops are stuck in a new war – a civil war in Iraq. This administration has been accused of going to war with no plan for reconstruction after the victory. I contend that they went in with too many plans. The neoconservatives saw it as a stepping-stone to Iran – “Real men want to go to Tehran”. Jerry Bremer saw it as a libertarian paradise (google the Harpers article “Baghdad Year Zero”).
    George W. Bush? I honestly don’t know whether he had a plan, or was just winging it. I suspect the latter. But his nasty noises regarding Iran lead me to suspect he’s on board with the neoconservatives. I also suspect that he is a God-bothering fool who believes that we are in the Final Days. That thought keeps me up at night, and with a gin bottle close at hand.
    Cheney was obviously following his “one percent doctrine”. Rumsfeld? I think he was just playing god with our military. And may God forgive him as well. I can’t.
    The rest of the bunch were just following orders.
    Lieberman switching parties? Maybe yes, maybe no. Up to him, as it was up to Jim Jeffords in his day. I don’t think he will, but I don’t care. The Democrats are already forming their customary circular firing squad in pursuit of the 2008 ring. The good news is that the GOP is, too.
    Or maybe that’s the bad news. What have we got, Doctor? “A republic, if you can keep it.” For all its imperfections, it is worth keeping. Grab on with both hands, folks.

  16. ali says:

    “There’s an army still running fruitlessly round Al Anbar that is fit for the task.”
    Pat found that cryptic.
    All those M1As, Strykers and up-armored Humvees are wasting fuel in the Wild West. Even the MC report Al Anbar is a lost cause.
    Bit more useful for securing the line of retreat than Snatch Landrovers, foul language and heroicly bad teeth.

  17. David Habakkuk says:

    If the U.S. does strike Iran, and the Iranians retaliate by moving against American supply lines in Iraq, what happens to the remaining British forces?
    What options would be available to them? How vulnerable are they?

  18. johnf says:

    Sorry to spoil your optimism but I think very few people in Britain share your faith. We’ve been repeatedly promised withdrawal every few months since the war started.
    Blair’s announcement on a radio programme with Britain’s fiercest cross examiner, John Humphries, was swiftly followed by a junior defence minister saying that 5,000 British tropps were expected to stay in Iraq til 2012 to keepo the exit doors open for you Yanks.

  19. Al-Q says:

    Troops out, Prince Harry in. Forgive me for seeming a cynic on this issue, but I would like to forecast the serious injury or possibly murder of this lad in Iraq. After all, he might not even be of royal blood ……

  20. dan says:

    Golly. A few points seemingly missed by Mr White.
    Last Autumn the UK press was full of stories about the MoD drawing down troops – approx. 3k – this spring, once the much-vaunted Operation Sinbad had run its course. Needless to say any reasonably well-informed UK observer who had a sufficient degree of critical skepticism and a an appreciation of Whitehall spin could have told you back then that, as with the previous “drawdown fever” story binges in the UK press in 2004 and 2005, the delivery would not match the anticipation.
    So the MoD is reducing its Basra contingent to 5500, with the promise of a further 1500 to leave in November-December; of course, come the Autumn, the numbers withdrawn will be between 0 and 750. If we’re lucky – ie barring a total catastrophe – the MoD will draw down to its minimal level of 3-4k troops by 2009; at this point the MoD stays until the US leaves. Remember, the MoD is the “gatekeeper” here, and insofar as its function is to keep the Basra end of the logistics chain “open”, it cannot withdraw to a force component that is less than 3000 troops. There are no US legions-in-waiting to pick up the slack.
    Whilst Whitehall has few illusions left regarding its ability to achieve any of its stated political objectives in Iraq, the overriding UK political-strategic interest is the preservation of the Atlantic Alliance. Please don’t make the mistake of linking UK committments in Iraq to what is actually happening in Iraq.
    The Danes, who are deployed with the MoD in Basra, are withdrawing their entire contingent this summer. Then again, the Danes don’t have UK world power pretensions and aren’t leasing a so-called independent nuclear deterrent from Washington.
    The August “handover” of the Al Amarah base wasn’t a handover or, for that matter, planned – the MoD was forced out by persistent indirect fire attacks and constant harrassment of the logistics effort to keep the base supplied. It’s worth noting that in the wake of the May helicopter shootdown in Basra, the MoD ceased all daytime flying bar Medevac, and no-one believes its wise to do nightime helicopter resupply on bases that are being mortared every night, as the Amara base was. Basically, the MoD ran and put on a splendid PR exercise by redeploying to the region East of Amara, where they loudly told all and sundry they were going to patrol the border area to prevent smuggling. All of this was covered by a Channel 4 news crew that was embedded with the MoD in Amara at the time, leading to the broadcast of hilarious footage of British squaddies huddled under desks in their base every night to a soundtrack of mortars going off.
    Predictably, having announced their plans very loudly, the MoD has been shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover that there was little to no smuggling going on.

  21. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Anyone ever heard of the death of the “Prince Imperial?” pl

  22. Mike G says:

    There would not have been much point in Prince Harry joining the army if he were not sent out to locations where actual military action is taking place. The royals have to be seen to be sharing the burdens that the rest of the citizens of the UK have to carry. But note that he is being sent to Iraq, a less risky theatre than Afghanistan. The likelihood of him coming to grief patrolling the deserts around Basra is far lower than the probability of taking a bullet in the bitter day to day confrontations with the Taliban in Helmland province.
    The “withdrawal” spread out over nearly two years is being matched by an increased presence of British troops in Afghanistan. The top brass in Whitehall have recognised that Basra and the south is unwinnable; British forces are overstretched anyway; best to concentrate on Afghanistan where there is some hope of progress.

  23. Got A Watch says:

    This “withdrawal” is just smoke and mirors to provide cover for Blair’s fighting withdrawal from British politics, and to allow the relieving Brown time to get elected. But judging from the poll numbers, Blair, Brown or whomever will not win the next election, it will be an oppostion party. Just another failed manipulation by Blair, who is probably in full panic now, seeing his “place in history” as being right next to the dumpster, not the glowing figure who would have statures and squares named after him for centuries. The “end of term, lets review what we have accomplished” dynamic in action. Too bad for him the judgement of history will be harsh, Blair will be probably be recorded as one of the worst leaders in British history, all for his slavish desire to please his Washington masters. Was he really a deep cover CIA agent? That would explain his actions better than most theories.
    What I find particularily egregious about Blair is his inability to admit that he is responsible for the chaos and violence in Iraq, and no one else (except GWB/Cheney). Every time he discusses Iraq, he ties himself in knots trying to get around accepting any blame or responsiblity what so ever. Probably the truest measure of his character – it’s always someone else’s fault, never his. A characteristic he shares with the American neo-cons, and why they are constantly trying to change the channel to deflect any discussion of their criminal responsibilty for the sorry stae of affairs in Iraq today.
    I say it is an illusion manufactured purely for domestic political considerations because in fact there will still be thousands of British troops in Iraq for many years to come. If a crisis erupts, re-inforcements will be rushed in. Blair is just putting fresh lipstick on the pig.

  24. Got A Watch says:

    Todays Independent has:
    “Revealed: The true extent of Britain’s failure in Basra” By Patrick Cockburn
    “The partial British military withdrawal from southern Iraq announced by Tony Blair this week follows political and military failure, and is not because of any improvement in local security, say specialists on Iraq……
    In other words, British soldiers have stayed and died in southern Iraq, and will continue to do so, because Mr Blair finds it too embarrassing to end what has become a symbolic presence and withdraw them.”
    Details the sorry history of the occupation of southern Iraq from credible sources. Worth a read, pertains directly to this discussion.

  25. pl, Harry will be killed by brown people too.
    What good PR that will make for fighting the evil Muslims?

  26. Mike G says:

    Prince Imperial? Son of Emperor Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie of France. Killed while fighting with the British army in a skirmish in 1870’s in the Zulu wars. Requiescat in Pacem.
    Princes are expected to seek military glory and fight as warriors, at the head of the troops fighting the enemy, and if necessary, to die. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. Have Cheney or Bush any offspring fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq…….?

  27. Jim Schmidt says:

    Cheney in Sydney yesterday:
    “And the point I made and I’ll make it again is that al-Qaida functions on the basis that they think they can break our will. That’s their fundamental underlying strategy, that if they can kill enough Americans or cause enough havoc, create enough chaos in Iraq, then we’ll quit and go home.”
    How does anyone but al-Qaida (and how many are we really talking about here) really know what they want to do?
    Is this just another “nattering nabobs of negativism” moment for the VP or does he really believe what he is saying? What war is this guy still (re)fighting?
    I hear echoes of Munich in the VP’s statement. Is a theory of appeasement accurate and correctly applied to Iraq/Iran or does this go all the way back to the Barbary pirates? Does the modern theory of liberal democracy fit in here somewhere?
    Also, why is this conflict, at this moment, so critical to this administration, especially if it isn’t all just bananas (Central Ameria, early 20th century)?
    Regarding time and committment, we are only recently out of the Philippines and still in Cuba. History is not on the side of anyone who hopes, in the words of the fictional Professor Kantorek
    that “…it will be a quick war. There will be few losses.” (“All Quiet on the Western Front”, 1930)
    I’m hoping for a discussion of what is the truth (in politics, i.e. the Iraq/Iran conflict) and an opportunity to expand my “tiny mind”. 🙂

  28. Jim Schmidt says:

    To Mike G:
    “Have Cheney or Bush any offspring fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq…….?”
    Don’t ask, don’t tell.

  29. John B says:

    Got A Watch:
    Blair as a deep cover CIA agent. I just about blew my tomato soup through my nose when I read that.
    I always look for a rational explanation for things and when that does not work find an irrational one. Ok, we have Blair a well respected and well like PM. This guy is pretty smart and can speak unlike the idiot prince. All of a sudden he takes a wild ass gamble with the idiot prince and takes a path down a road that only leads to disaster. If anyone should understand the ME it is the Brits. I am sure there were all sorts of people telling Blair not to do it, but he did. I have been scratching my head over it and yours is the best explanation I have seen either that or he is really part of a similar group to the Fundamentalist Christian Mystic party, otherwise called the GOP.
    The man through his place in history away for a loser. Why, just because they use the same toothpaste. I really think in hind site, he is a bigger idiot than the idiot prince.

  30. Chris Marlowe says:

    It’s great to know that a convicted felon (Iran-contra), Elliott Abrams, has an effective veto over US Mideast policy.
    One would think that this would be something the US corporate media, with its love of scandals, would like to dig into. Alas, no…
    You can read more about Elliott Abrams here:http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/IB23Ak04.html
    If Prince Harry falls gallantly in the field of battle, a victim of “Islamofascist” terrorists (who happen to be brown people with oil), that would really whip up the American and British people into a patriotic frenzy, wouldn’t it? Throw in a state funeral, and we can have at least a full week of nonstop coverage from Fox News and CNN. Glenn Beck could really get his teeth into it; Tim Russert could do an interview of Cheney. (“This sacrifice reminds us that we can never afford to go soft in our war on international terrorism.”) “Let’s see, how many more multi-billion dollar weapons systems can we get congress to pass funding for?”
    They would be reminding us of this daily for at least the next six months. These people are so predictable.

  31. John Howley says:

    Regarding political pressure on Blair…while there is no GENERAL election in the offing, there are important REGIONAL elections coming soon.
    Elections for the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament are scheduled for May 2007. In both cases, nationalist politicians are making gains on the back of antiwar sentiment. For Scottish Labour to lose control of the Parliament at Holyrood would be a bit embarrassing for Gordon Brown (himself a Scot).
    The Northern Ireland Assembly election is scheduled for March 7; other factors dominate there.

  32. ali says:

    “If the U.S. does strike Iran, and the Iranians retaliate by moving against American supply lines in Iraq, what happens to the remaining British forces?”
    The South may rise even if Iran goes unmolested; it’s a Hobbesian mess. Lean to hard on Al Sadr or Hakim and the Basra road will get as dangerous as Al Anbar.
    Given US air support the Brits are more than capable of defending themselves. However if things get kinetic they are ill equipped to protect convoys in the middle of a Shi’a rising. They’ll lose entire units trying.
    The British military are far more worried about Helmand than the lost cause in Basra Province.
    If DC is foolish enough to “go wide” with this war I worry about complacency. The Iranians don’t have much of a conventional capability but they could do something strategically foolish like Tet. That could get very nasty.
    A corner of every British soldiers mind dreams of Rourke’s Drift. Isandlwana and the retreat from Kabul tends to be forgotten.

  33. Mo says:

    Even without a withdawl, if the Shia in the South decided it was time to turn up the heat, I doubt that a. the troops there could cope or that b. the UK proletariat would put up with it so long. Its not that the UK is particularly affected by troop deaths but it is when the troops are dying for a war that the people believe isn’t theirs.
    If the Shia do go “insurgent”, the troops will be facing a massive populace, with strong military backing from Iran and in all likelyhood, the training and know-how of a certain Shia group to the West who have decades of experience in fighting an occupying army. Plus, they would have to do so with one hand tied as the British public and media would never allow a “falluja”, wipe out the city ask questions later, type operation.
    Therefore you have to conclude that either:
    a. You agree with Pat Cockburn of the Independent newspaper, that this is a defeat and retreat by another name.
    b. That Blair knows of Bush’ intentions ove Iran and is either getting his soldiers out of harms way or has been told that the threat of attack is a bluff.
    c.That Prince Harry really is as rumoured, the illegitimate son of Dianas affair and that leaving him there on his own is one way of getting rid of him.
    or off course, d. Tony Blair is doing what Tony does best; Lying.

  34. Chris Marlowe says:

    When the US is becoming irrelevant in Iraq, is stuck in a shouting match with Iran, and is heading to lose in Afghanistan, then what is Israel to do?
    You might start by talking to Syria. But then, according to this Ha’aretz article, the US (I’m assuming the offices of Vice President Five Deferments and convicted felon Elliott Abrams) have told them not to talk to Syria:

  35. Chris Marlowe says:

    I had submitted the wrong link about the US blocking Israel’s feelers to Syria.
    Here is the right one:

  36. johnf says:

    Chris Marlowe:
    >If Prince Harry falls gallantly in the field of battle, a victim of “Islamofascist” terrorists (who happen to be brown people with oil), that would really whip up the American and British people into a patriotic frenzy, wouldn’t it?
    This might be the reaction in the States but in Britain I think it would be highly unlikely. It would merely increase the hatred of Blair and Bush who put him there in the first place.

  37. johnf says:

    With the reduction of British troops down to a little over a thousand, with 5,000 stuck there indefinitely, we now discover why the reduction.
    HMG have just announced that a thousand extre troops are due in Afghanistan.

  38. David Habakkuk says:

    Ali and Mo:
    Thanks for comments on the position of UK forces in southern Iraq.
    Next question:
    Do the British military think that NATO can win in Afghanistan?
    Last summer, the former aide-de-camp to the British commander in Helmand, Captain Docherty, resigned from the army. An interview is at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article634344.ece
    Some quotes:
    “All those people whose homes have been destroyed and sons killed are going to turn against the British,” he said. “It’s a pretty clear equation — if people are losing homes and poppy fields, they will go and fight. I certainly would.
    “We’ve been grotesquely clumsy — we’ve said we’ll be different to the Americans who were bombing and strafing villages, then behaved exactly like them ……
    “Now the ground has been lost and all we’re doing in places like Sangin is surviving,” said Docherty. “It’s completely barking mad.
    “We’re now scattered in a shallow meaningless way across northern towns where the only way for the troops to survive is to increase the level of violence so more people get killed. It’s pretty shocking and not something I want to be part of.”
    Is this right?
    Captain Docherty also claimed that the Department of International Development and Foreign People, who should have been looking after the development programmes that were supposed to be critical to ‘winning hearts and minds’, were not there.
    A recent mea culpa from the former diplomat Carne Ross — who had the guts to resign over the cooking of intelligence on Iraqi WMD — is at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2016128,00.html.
    “After the invasion of Afghanistan, when I was posted to Kabul, I found myself writing reports about the “political situation” in Afghanistan based on brief forays outside the high embassy walls for meetings surrounded by bodyguards with sympathetic Afghans, conducted through interpreters. I may as well have been a Pashtun trying to understand the Highlands of Scotland without English.
    “I did my best, but the temptation is strong and irresistible to bend this scant knowledge to our preferred version of events – for instance that Afghans want democracy (when in fact their overriding message, still not fully heard, is the desire for security, development and freedom from the warlords, many of whom we helped place in power).”

  39. Mo says:

    The British army being the British army, will always believe they can win. They are after all, over the last century, on a good run, militarily- I believe they are still 8-0. Iraq and Afghanistan may just end that record

  40. Got A Watch says:

    The respected analyst Anthony Cordesman has a good analysis of the British withdrawal and wider ramifications. Worth the read.
    “The British defeat in the South and the uncertain Bush “strategy” in Iraq”
    By Anthony H. Cordesman, CSIS, February 21, 2007
    “There are many definitions of “strategy,” some of which are virtually indistinguishable from “tactics.” To use one of the better dictionary definitions, however, “strategy” is “the science and art of employing the political, economic, psychological, and military forces of a nation or group of nations to afford the maximum support to adopted policies in peace or war.”
    By this definition, and any other meaningful definition of “strategy,” a meaningful US strategy in Iraq cannot simply focus on winning in Baghdad and going on with efforts to fight the insurgents in the most troubled. A meaningful US strategy in Iraq has to combine all of the necessary means to achieve a clearly defined objective and it has to have an end game.
    In practice, any form of US action that ends in some form of “victory” means finding a strategy that allows the US to withdraw most US forces from an Iraq that is stable enough to have reduced internal violence to low levels that can be controlled by local forces, that is secure against its neighbors, that is politically and economically unified enough to function and develop as a state, and which is pluralistic enough to preserve the basic rights of all of its sectarian and ethnic factions.
    Things in Iraq may have deteriorated to the point where none of the “least bad” options now available allow the US to achieve these goals. From a perceptual viewpoint, “victory” may already be impossible because most of the people in Iraq, the region, and Arab and Muslim worlds will probably view the US effort as a failure and as a partial defeat even if the US can leave Iraq as a relatively stable and secure state at some point in the future. The perceived cost of the US-led invasion and occupation has simply been too high in terms of local opinion (and most polls of opinion in Europe and the rest of the world.)”
    Much more in the full text.
    His conclusions are grim, and align with my own.

  41. David Habakkuk says:

    I think it is extremely likely that Iraq and Afghanistan are going to put an end to the British army’s history of (frequently through no virtue of their own) avoiding defeat.
    And I think that, precisely because we have had it, relatively speaking, so easy, this is liable to come as a major shock for the country as a whole. There could be interesting implications for British foreign policy.

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