Defence Committee Press Notice

Session 2007-08 No. 10

3 December 2007


The Government must do more to explain the future role of UK Forces in Iraq, says a report published today by the House of Commons Defence Committee (First Report of Session 2007-08, UK land operations in Iraq 2007, HC 110). Important questions remain about the sustainability of a force of 2,500 and how they would be reinforced if the security situation deteriorates. The MPs say:

€ The Government plans to reduce force levels in Iraq from the Spring of 2008 but unless UK Forces have a meaningful role and are capable of doing more than just protecting themselves at their base at Basra Air Station, then the entire UK presence in Iraq will be open to question.

€Although the US "surge" appears to be countering the worst of the sectarian violence, the security situation in Iraq remains a source of concern and an impediment to political progress and reconciliation. In South Eastern Iraq, there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of attacks on UK and Coalition Forces, but there has been no corresponding reduction in the number of attacks against the civilian population.

€Building-up the capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces is fundamental to the long-term security of Iraq and to the draw-down and eventual withdrawal of UK Forces. If Iraq is to become a stable country, the Iraqi Army and Police must be properly equipped and trained. Although significant progress has been made with the Iraqi Army, progress in training the Iraqi Police has been "painfully slow".

€The MoD's Urgent Operational Requirement procurement process has been effective in delivering much-needed equipment and force protection to UK Forces in theatre, but the intensity of current operations is reducing the planned lifespans of equipment and this needs to be budgeted for.

Commenting on the report, Committee Chairman Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP said:

"The Government's plan to reduce the number of troops serving in Iraq to 2,500 from the Spring of 2008 is, of course, welcome, not just to Service families but to all of us who are concerned about the pressure under which our Armed Forces are currently operating. But it is not clear how the figure of 2,500 was arrived at and it is also not clear what those remaining in Iraq will actually be doing. We cannot ask our Forces to remain in Iraq unless they have an effective and clearly-defined role. A full withdrawal from Iraq will only be possible if the Iraqis are trained and equipped to handle their own security effectively. This work is not yet complete."