Britain gave 'inflated expectations' of potential in Iraq: top adviser
Sun Oct 7, 8:08 PM ET
The British government gave "false and inflated expectations" of what could be achieved by its military presence in Iraq, its top military adviser said in an interview published Monday.
Speaking to The Times, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the chief of the defence staff, acknowledged that only Iraqis could make Basra, in the south of the country, into a stable, secure and prosperous city.
"In my view, and contrary to what many people may think, the British military in the south of Iraq, against some quite daunting odds, has been successful, and the nonsense about the British having failed in Basra is completely misjudged," he told the daily.
"Of course, it does depend upon recognising what the mission was in the first place, and I'm afraid we did allow some false and inflated expectations to arise.
"But the mission for the military was to get the place and the people to the state where the Iraqis could run that bit of their country if they chose to."
Stirrup added: "I think we didn't do a good job, frankly, of setting out the strategic prospect ... and we have not done as well as we should have done at thinking strategically.
"I'm talking here not just about the military."
His comments come as Prime Minister Gordon Brown is set to provide an update to the lower House of Commons on Monday afternoon on British troop levels in Iraq, having announced last week that their numbers will drop to 4,500 by the end of the year from current levels of about 5,250.
Most of those troops are based around Basra, where Stirrup said he didn't "for a moment pretend that there will be a smooth, uninterrupted progress towards some sort of urban idyll."
"I think some people expected that, with the British presence on the ground, we could put Basra society, Basra infrastructure, Basra politics and Basra life back on its feet and make it look like some sort of stable, secure, prosperous urban centre.
"That is the right aspiration to have, but we could never do that, only the Iraqis could do it."
A defence ministry spokeswoman declined to comment on the Stirrup's comments when contacted by AFP.
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