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Britain to leave Iraq (in shame?), increase troops to Afghanistan

In an anticipated move, Gordon Brown announced that the remaining 4,100 UK troops will leave Iraq by the end of July.  Mr. Brown is quoted by the BBC:
I feel that the task that we set out to do is being done and that's why we can take a decision to bring most of our forces home.
The Times Online is less cheery, characterizing Britain’s withdrawal as “a humiliating proposal that lumps the once-valued deployment with five smaller contingents, including those of Romania, El Salvador and Estonia.”

Is it fair to call Britain's withdrawal shameful?  The British contribution to Iraq and Afghanistan has been disproportionately large compared to most countries and there have not been complaints from the US or other Allies about British withdrawal.  However, Seumas Milne argues in the Guardian that it is shameful both that Britain ever entered the war, and just how much of a mess the country is being left in now.

It is speculated that British drawdowns from Iraq may at least partially lead to increases in Afghanistan.  Partially should be emphasized as the UK Chief of the Defense Staff, Sir Jock Stirrup, has done explicitly (BBC):
"Our top priority is to deliver success, military success in both theatres (Iraq and Afghanistan), but equally I've said for a very long time that the British armed forces are stretched," he said.

"We're doing more than we are structured or resourced to do in the long term. We can do it for a short period but we can't continue doing it ad infinitum.

"So we also have to get ourselves back into balance; it's crucial that we reduce the operational tempo for our armed forces, so it cannot be, even if the situation demanded it, it cannot be just a one for one transfer from Iraq to Afghanistan, we have to reduce that tempo.
While there will not be a one to one transfer of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, Gordon Brown has already confirmed an additional 300 troops will be sent to Afghanistan in March, bringing the total UK contribution to 8,300.   The Press Association reports that Brown, “insisted other countries also needed to play their part in the Nato-led campaign” as well. 

The United States will reportedly send 3,000 fresh troops to Kabul in January. Jon Hemming at News Daily speculates that further 2009 US deployments to Afghanistan will likely bolster Canada, the UK and the Dutch as they combat the Taliban in the restive south. 

Gordon Brown is not alone in asking for more Allied contributions to Afghanistan;  US Defense Secretary Gates is once again calling on ISAF participants to increase commitments, reports Reuters:
At a town hall-style meeting with U.S. troops in a large tent on the base, Gates renewed criticism of other NATO nations for not providing more troops and other resources to Afghanistan.

He said that, without the United States, the alliance had some 2.5 million men and women under arms, yet had only about 30,000 of them in Afghanistan, which NATO leaders have declared their top operational priority.
Europe may have around 2.5 million soldiers, sure, but how many of them are deployable?  According to Julianne Smith of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), only about 3 to 5 percent of European forces are expeditionary.  The fact is, NATO is becoming a multi-tiered alliance (well, always has been, but in the post-Cold War world where Allied soldiers are actually on the ground getting shot at, it has become more sensitive) -- some countries are over-stretching their forces (Britain for example), while others are apparently partying like its Oktoberfest.   

Brown and Gates should expect no miracle contributions anytime soon for Afghanistan, where violence in 2008 has been the worst since the US-led invasion began in 2001.  In fact, NATO’s military commander openly states that the US will provide most future troops for Afghanistan (Bloomberg):
The U.S. will supply the bulk of additional NATO troops for the war in Afghanistan, with only smaller-scale reinforcements coming from European allies, the alliance’s supreme military commander said.

“I don’t think we’re going to get big contributions,” U.S. Army General John Craddock told reporters today at allied headquarters in Mons, Belgium. “The United States is talking about brigade combat teams. Who else is talking about brigade combat teams? Haven’t heard anything.”
There is a ray of light for Afghanistan as Lieutenant General Jim Dutton, deputy commander of ISAF, anticipates things in Afghanistan will improve in 2009 due in large part to Obama making Afghanistan a top priority (AFP):
Lieutenant General Jim Dutton, deputy commander of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said plans to boost the Afghan army and police force and increase the number of foreign troops would turn things around.

"There are some causes for optimism. Things should get better, not worse, in 2009," he told reporters in Kabul.

"We have a new US administration coming into power with fresh ideas, many of which we already know."
Also see from Atlantic Review:
* What will Britain do when Obama asks for more troops?
* Is Europe "Ready to be Obama stakeholders, not free-riders?"
* What if President Obama asks for German combat troops?

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Joe Noory on :

For the Guardian writers and readership, the UK MUST leave in shame. It's kabuki to them. Basra isn't exactly a success nor is it a complete shambles, but I wouldn't give that paper any credence. To illustrate this stance, look at how the recent departure of Korean troops from Iraq was covered. The reportage did backflips to dictate what it meant that they were going home, when in fact they were going home having done a fantastic job. They also omitted one basic fact that might put the reconstruction in a good light: out of the 18 000 personnel they sent, they lost one, something that's statistically much less of a chance of loss than one would find among citizens in a stable, law-abiding society. To ideologize the news, and do ones' best to NOT report NEWS, a fact like that must be buried, which is why the likes of the Guardian and the NYT are not really news organization - they're party-political organs.

Pamela on :

I'm reading very conflicting reports. Re: Iraq, that Malaki got so disgusted with the Brits and their stand down at Basra that he just wanted them out period. But other reports I've read said that the retreat to their bases was the result of a deal they cut with the locals. Then there's Gordon Brown's bluster about how they're leaving because they've done what they came to do. Who knows how much the economy has to do with this - certainly the MoD never allocated the money to get them equipment that would keep them safe. Re: Afghanistan, I've read that the Brits who are in charge of Helmland province are in trouble and may need U.S. backup. Then I read that two SAS 'brigades' (I suspect the wrong term was used there) are being sent in to hunt down the Taliban - in other words, they'll be putting boots on the ground in Pakistan. I have contacts in the U.S. military so I can usually cut thru the media fog on those issues, but anything about the Brits I'm quite confused about.

Pat Patterson on :

Pamela-That would be almost 10,000 men on paper so definitly a typo of some kind. I saw two conflicting reports in that it was mentioned that two more companies of SAS were being sent in after withdrawing from Iraq and another report that says the entire Marine Brigade the entire Brigade of Gurkhas was being transferred to Afghanistan. The latter story makes more sense except in the acknowledgement that the British Army has not yet found the right tactical mix and equipment that will succeed and avoid the kinds of casualties that feed disengagement feeling at home. The truly sad part is that the British rely almost exclusively on others for air transport or attack. There are more helicopters patrolling the motorways of the Thames Valley then Britain has in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Pamela on :

I picked up the following from Instapundit. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article5375770.ece Last week Gordon Brown announced a date for Britain’s withdrawal from Iraq. Most troops will be back in time for a spring general election. The prime minister posed with soldiers and expressed his sorrow over yet more fatal casualties in Afghanistan. He did not dwell on Britain’s humiliation in Basra, nor mention that this is the most inglorious withdrawal since Sir Anthony Eden ordered the boys back from Suez. The fundamental cause of the British failure was political. Tony Blair wanted to join the United States in its toppling of Saddam Hussein because if Britain does not back America it is hard to know what our role in the world is: certainly not a seat at the top table. But, for all his persuasiveness, Blair could not hold public opinion over the medium term and so he cut troop numbers fast and sought to avoid casualties. As a result, British forces lost control of Basra and left the population at the mercy of fundamentalist thugs and warring militias, in particular Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. The secondary cause of failure was a misplaced British disdain for America, shared by our politicians and senior military. In the early days in Iraq we bragged that our forces could deploy in berets and soft-sided vehicles while US forces roared through Baghdad in heavily armoured convoys. British leaders sneered at the Americans’ failure to win hearts and minds because of their lack of experience in counterinsurgency. Pride has certainly come before a fall. British commanders underestimated both the enemy’s effectiveness and the Americans’ ability to adapt. Some apparently failed even to observe how much had changed. At a meeting in August 2007 an American described Major-General Jonathan Shaw, then British commander, as “insufferable”, lecturing everyone in the room about lessons learnt in Northern Ireland, which apparently set eyeballs rolling: “It would be okay if he was best in class, but now he’s worst in class.” (a bit more at the link) ------------------------- And Mark Steyn comments on the article noted above. http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=NmVhM2YyY2JmNTQzODhkN2U5M2Y1NDczODBhN2IyMjk= I remember being at a dinner in New York a couple of days after 9/11, and the subject of the British at war came up. We talked about the Falklands - a risky venture but the public and the tabloids ("DON'T CRY FOR US, ARGENTINA", "STICK IT UP YOUR JUNTA") loved it. We all assumed that's the way it would go this time. But Britain is a more enervated land and it quickly concluded this war was Blair's not theirs. The snapshots of the post-9/11 era are not attractive: the failures in Basra, the Brit prisoners in Iran, and Her Majesty's subjects turning up on the other team's side everywhere from Kandahar to Bombay to the London Tube. The question is whether a nation that's "lost the stomach for a fight" has also lost its survival instinct. ------------------ Ah, the Falklands. Good ole Maggie. There was an Argentinian ship that was really not in waters that made it a legitimate target - can't recall the name - but she said to sink it anyway. As I recall, the British press treated her much like our media treated Sarah Palin. And they both have more balls than any of 'em.

Kyle on :

I picked up the same article from Times Pamela and was going to post it here - thanks for putting it up. Another interesting quote from it: "If a fair-minded account of the Iraq war is written, credit should go to President Bush for rejecting two years ago the report by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group that called for force reductions. He defied conventional wisdom and ordered a troop surge instead. It has been an extraordinary success and, unlike Britain, the Americans will not withdraw in defeat. During debates in Washington, British forces’ ignominious withdrawal to barracks was cited to argue that the United States could not contemplate being humbled in a similar way. In the end Bush was not a quitter. Blair “cut and ran”."

Pamela on :

heh. I deliberately left that part out - seemed a bit self-serving. A really good source who should not be missed is Michael Yon - he is a self-financed, free lancer who embeds with the troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan (I believe he was once Specail Forces himself, but I could be mistaken about that.) http://www.michaelyon-online.com/

Pamela on :

The following is from EU Referendum: (selected quotes, more at the link) http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2008/12/getting-in-first.html ------------- However, we – and they – should not run away with the idea that the campaign was a success. At best, we could describe it as an "heroic failure". Our armed forces were under-resourced, undermanned and ill-equipped from the very start, given a job that they could not hope to achieve. And thus, predictably – but with no reflection on those at the cutting edge – they failed. In the end, after abandoning the outer provinces, with their ignominious retreat from al Ahamrah, forced on them by the pitifully inadequate resources allocated to the Maysan Battle Groups – they were driven out of all but one of their bases in Basra, until they were hunkered down in the former Basra airport, out of the game. It took Iraqi troops, with the support of the US – including its massive air power – to recover Basra from the Mahdi Army and it was not until June that they did likewise with al Amarah. [ ] Thus, while the Americans may have made all the mistakes in the book, they learned from their experiences, adapted and then prevailed. That the British Army came out of the campaign with much the same equipment with which they started, and recognisably similar tactics, says a great deal. Despite the courage and dedication at the cutting face, the high command failed to adapt, failed to meld the Army into an effective counter-insurgency force, and failed ultimately to provide the leadership that the Army needed. Interestingly, Jackson observes that the period in Iraq has "been a long, hard and controversial campaign, but I believe it has largely succeeded." He is right in all respects, but the success is not his, or that of the British Army. Our forces rose to the challenge, writes the man, but the leadership – both military and political – did not. And to the end, like his former political master, Jackson is "spinning". He writes of "the announcement that Britain is largely to close down its military role in Iraq by May 31, 2009," not acknowledging that the date is not one of our choice. It has been set not by Mr Brown, but the Iraqis. They have kicked us out. (there is a link embedded under 'they have kicked us out' - it's worth reading)

Pamela on :

Merry Christmas everyone! Now I'm off to get drunk..............

Don S on :

Happy hangover, Pamela.

Marie Claude on :

eh be ! Tony adds in the soup !!!! woah, what's gonna denkt Angela ? http://www.time.com/time/specials/2008/personoftheyear/article/0,31682,1861543_1865103_1866541,00.html

Alfred E Neumann on :

Ah, Marie, that was interesting, no? But perhaps unsurprising. Blair and Sarko have a lot of mutual regard. I have mixed feelings about Time's Man of the Year award this year. I think the real Man of the Year may have been Putin, but they gave him the award a year too early! So they could not repeat it. I think they may have done it again this year by awarding it to Barack Obama. Not that it's undeserved exactly, but because in a sense he has really done nothing yet compared to what is possible and perhaps necessary. Yes, for a man of mixed race to claw his way to the top of the 'greasy pole' is a massive achievement in so-called 'racist' America, but in another sense he has not really begun. I think Sarko would have been a worthy recipient this year, although so is Obama. Or Putin, if they could have given it to him. In a negative way, of course, but the Man of the Year award is not the Nobel Peace Prize - it does not measure worthyness but whom is consequential.

Marie Claude on :

well I would have rather chosen Saakashvili : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBh9D2WIGsE We know, now, that he is a good character :lol: "Yes, for a man of mixed race to claw his way to the top of the 'greasy pole' is a massive achievement in so-called 'racist' America" um, precisely, he was elected because of the "race" ticket, and of big man footprint al Gore's business and collateral financers as far as Sarko's selection, we can't deny that the Anglo-Saxons still focus on France, Sarko was their choice long time ago, before we elected him, like someone they would have like for their own, they would rather give away Obama to us, except that he doesn't fit our criteriums for freedom from religion interference, seems that the Farrakan's, ain't not tolerant either, neither the warren's, kinda too evangelical (a left perspective of the DC evangelical business) I think no matter who's elected, the things are lead above their heads

Alfred E Neumann on :

Saakashvili? Nahhhh, you're crazy. He's not important at all.

Marie Claude on :

of course he isn't :lol: but Sarko is still the "true" one, cuz, he is flamed by our german friends (ie german community), for me it's a sign, thus he is on the good path :lol: he is also flamed by our israeli friends, (um, Gaza trip was too heavy !!!) and therefore by our american friends !!!! vive Sarko, vive la France , happy new year everyone from Portugal

John in Michigan, USA on :

Obama "was elected because of...big man footprint al Gore's business and collateral financers"?? As far as I know, the only role that Al Gore had was to select Obama for an important speech at the Democratic convention in 2004. That gave Obama his first major national audience, and took Obama's books out of obscurity, therefore making Obama a personal millionaire even before Obama started his political fundraising. It seems to me, Gore's did this one, very important thing for Obama, but it was only one thing. Obama's fundraising power cannot be attributed to the Al Gore machine, which was mostly the Clinton machine in 2004. Obama's real breakthrough was to win the support of Soros and his ilk, which he mostly did on his own. If Al Gore had been more important to Obama, Gore (or one of his minions) would have gotten some major position in the Obama administration, wouldn't you think? But maybe you have information about Gore that I do not have? What, other than the 2004 speech, makes Al Gore important to Obama? Why is Al Gore being so far ignored in the Obama administration?

john phillips on :

I do object to this article that says British troops are leaving in shame. Perhaps the journalist who wrote these words should enlist for service in the Middle East and take some of the `stick`. The Americans started this war, now let them finish it or get out The cash being spent on warfare would be better spent on the British public at home, who Brown has reduced to poverty level during his time as chancellor of the exchequer.

John in Michigan, USA on :

Actually, Mr. Phillips, Saddam broke the peace (such as there was) in the region in 1990. Saddam's war was put on pause in 1991 via a cease-fire. Saddam violated the spirit of this agreement almost immediately, when he used helicopters which were allowed to transport aid, to instead commit still more mass murder of civilians. He violated the letter of the agreement in 1994 when he re-occupied some Kuiwait territory. He also never paid reparations nor repatriated jailed Kuwaiti citizens, as required. President Clinton technically violated the cease fire in 1998, when he bombed government buildings in Baghdad, although arguably that was a moot point due to Saddam's repeated violations. Granted, President Bush did escalate the war beyond the level seen in 1991-2003, but he most certainly did not start the war. And, with the success of the surge, plus the recent SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement), he has essentially finished it, as you demanded. Will you give him credit? Some Iraqis will tell you that "things weren't so bad under Saddam" but when you press them for specifics, you quickly realize 1) they are Baathists or other regime loyalists who did benefit under Saddam, at the cost of their fellow Iraqis, and 2) those few moments when Iraq as a whole was genuinely better off refer to what some consider the "salad days" before the war with Iran in the 80's, or during a brief period between the Iran-Iraq war and the Gulf War.

Pat Patterson on :

Mr Philips also ignored that since the precipitous drop in the number of subjects in the UK when Mrs Thatcher was elected the level has essentially varied little from 14% of those only making 60% of what is considered the minimum to live in the UK. So exactly when was this great reducing to poverty claimed to have happened?

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