DEF150304 - No. 16

Session 2003-04, 15 March 2004

Publication of Report on Lessons of Iraq

Publication of Report on Lessons of Iraq

Learning the Lessons of Iraq:  Defence Committee Publishes Extensive Recommendations  

The UK’s military operation in Iraq was a significant achievement, demonstrating again that the men and women of the British armed forces are among the best in the world, says a wide-ranging and highly detailed report published today by the Defence Committee.

The three volume, cross-party report, which follows nearly a year of evidence-taking, lists 131 lessons that should be learned from the Iraq conflict and says that the Government must address a number of critical issues that put armed forces under undue pressure and stretched them close to their limits.

Overall the operation the military operations was a significant success. Most major equipment, such as the Challenger tank and the AS90 self-propelled gun, performed up to or above expectations. Over 85% of munitions launched by the RAF were precision guided and British forces secured their targets with very few casualties.

A number of recommendations, however point out that a more capable enemy could have exposed serious weaknesses in the preparedness and resilience of UK forces, particularly in response to the potential threat from Iraqi chemical or biological weapons.

The report highlights the very limited time available to the military to prepare to deploy troops and equipment, in part because of parallel political processes. This led in some instances to equipment shortages, and may have affected some areas of combat effectiveness. It identifies marked problems in logistics, communication, intelligence, planning and co-ordination with the US. 

The priority for military planning must be the achievement of military objectives, says the report. It notes that the focus on ‘effects based’ operations (i.e. seeing military action as one part of a much larger political strategy) may further complicate the role of the armed forces who are already operating in increasingly complex situations and under intrusive scrutiny.

The Committee also concludes that there was a lack of adequate planning for the situation in post-conflict Iraq. They conclude that the inability, particularly in the early post conflict stage, to provide the scale of resources required limited the effectiveness of UK troops and squandered Iraqi good will.

Commenting, Committee Chairman Rt Hon Bruce George MP said: 

“The fact that this operation was a notable military success should not blind us to the very real difficulties which our armed forces had to cope with in terms of hurried deployment, inadequate supplies and a lack of time for proper in-theatre training.

“Our troops showed themselves to be equal to the best in the world. They displayed outstanding courage, professionalism and resourcefulness. But when they face situations where their lives are in danger, they must have complete confidence that everything is being done at higher levels to enable them to discharge their duties safely and effectively. 

“It is time now for the Government and the Ministry of Defence to look carefully at our recommendations and conclusions and act upon them quickly and comprehensively.”


1. The full report is entitled ‘Lessons of Iraq’ (HC 57-I, 2003-4). 

2. It has been the practice of Defence Committees to conduct inquiries following major combat operations involving UK armed forces. The focus of the inquiry and report has been the British contribution to the combat operations in Iraq in March and April 2003.

3. The Committee announced its intention to look into the ‘Lessons of Iraq’ on 11 April 2003.  It took evidence on 19 occasions from 48 witnesses and met with many units of the armed forces who contributed to the operation, as well as visiting Iraq in July 2003.

4. Committee Membership is as follows: Rt Hon Bruce George MP (Chairman), Mr Crispin Blunt MP, Mr James Cran MP, Mr David Crausby MP, Mike Gapes MP, Mr Mike Hancock CBE MP, Dai Havard MP, Mr Kevan Jones MP, Mr Frank Roy MP, Rachel Squire MP, Peter Viggers MP

5. News Release: No. 16


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