Session 2004-05, 23 March 2005
DEFENCE COMMITTEE SAYS PROGRESS IN IRAQ ‘IMPRESSIVE’, BUT BRITISH FORCES LIKELY TO STAY TO 2006 AT LEAST
Progress in Iraq is in many respects impressive, but the Coalition’s early planning for the post-conflict phase was marred by a series of mistakes and misjudgements, says a report published today by the House of Commons Defence Committee.
The wide-ranging report into post-conflict operations in Iraq focuses on the Coalition’s response to the insurgency and security sector reform. The Coalition had not planned adequately to deal with a post-conflict insurgency, but in southern Iraq the British approach contributed directly to the development of a more permissive environment and relatively little insurgent activity.
Security sector reform should have been given greater priority immediately after the invasion in 2003. Early efforts at reform suffered from a lack of central coordination and a focus on simple numerical targets rather than the development of real capabilities. Although more recently there have been encouraging signs of improvement, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) cannot yet sustain responsibility for operations carried out in their name. Despite the success of the security operation for the 30 January 2005 elections (and the notable success of the elections themselves), they will continue to rely on Coalition forces and capabilities in many areas. British forces are likely to remain in Iraq at around the current level at least until 2006.
MPs say the Coalition did not plan in advance for the scale of the reconstruction task that it faced. This was compounded by the subsequent failure of the Coalition to make adequate preparations for the management of the reconstruction effort following the hand-over of authority from the Coalition Provisional Authority to the Interim Iraqi Government in June 2004. British forces in southern Iraq were therefore asked to manage a range of tasks beyond what should normally be expected of military organisations.
The Committee is also critical of the current arrangements for deploying civil agencies, and particularly police officers, to post-conflict peace support operations
Commenting on the report, Committee Chairman Rt Hon Bruce George MP said “The significant progress that has been made in Iraq, especially in the British sector in the south, has come about largely through the professionalism, flexibility and pragmatism of the British Armed Forces. We can be proud of what they have achieved. But for the future, the UK needs a comprehensive post-conflict planning capability. Leveraging the UK’s response to post-conflict challenges will also require better integration with our allies’ planning processes.”
MPs also noted that progress in Iraq has been helped by the increasing international consensus on the need to support the development of an independent and democratic Iraq. The Committee strongly urged the United Nations and the European Union to expand their in-country presence particularly in Iraq’s southern governorates where their assistance and expertise can be most helpful.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
1. Committee Membership is as follows: Rt Hon Bruce George MP (Chairman), Mr James Cran MP, Mr David Crausby MP, Mike Gapes MP, Mr Mike Hancock CBE MP, Dai Havard MP, Mr Kevan Jones MP, Richard Ottaway MP, Mr Frank Roy MP, Rachel Squire MP, Peter Viggers MP
2. News Release: No. 17
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