Retreat from Basra – learning the lessons

By Stephen Grey
IN the dark of the night, as the bugler sounded the “advance”, the British Army began its retreat, quitting its last base in Basra and leaving the Iraqi city in the hands of a murderous Shi-ite militia.
That withdrawal from Basra Palace on September 2nd 2007 marked, in the eyes of many in the British Army, the nadir of this country’s entire military reputation.
As was revealed later in the Sunday Times, the pull out from Basra proceeded without incident and un-molested only because of a secret British deal with the Mehdi Army enemy who had killed 11 of the departing British battalion and who, according to one officer present, “provided security all around for our convoy.” It was he said, an “utter humiliation.” Continue reading Retreat from Basra – learning the lessons

MoD blocked warning that Britain faces Afghan defeat

From The Sunday Times September 6, 2009
By Stephen Grey

THE Ministry of Defence has suppressed a report which warned that British troops are facing “strategic defeat” in Afghanistan.

The decision to block publication of the critical academic paper in the army’s in-house journal coincides with a scathing attack by a senior US military officer on the “arrogance” of UK tactics in Iraq.

Colonel Peter Mansoor, who worked closely with General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq until a year ago, said Britain’s political and military leaders had “abdicated responsibility” in Basra by failing to protect local people. Continue reading MoD blocked warning that Britain faces Afghan defeat

Iraqis stop British purge of police

by Stephen Grey in Basra (first published in Sunday Times, London)

A BRITISH Army operation to purge an Iraqi police unit blamed for torture, murders and attacks on troops is being opposed by senior politicians in the southern city of Basra.

British commanders say they have repeatedly clashed with Mohammed al-Waili, the provincial governor, and other elected leaders during a crackdown on the local police’s Department for Internal Affairs (DIA). Al-Waili threatened last week to break off relations with the British after troops arrested two senior policemen.

The row dates back to last September when two SAS soldiers became involved in a gunfight and were held at Jamiat police station, which served as DIA headquarters.Whitehall sources said the soldiers had been following a senior member of the DIA when they were spotted.

Al-Waili, who belongs to a Shi’ite group called the Islamic Virtue party, angered the army by refusing to call for the soldiers’ release.The DIA has been blamed not only for killing and torturing prisoners, but also for effectively operating a death squad whose victims may have included Steven Vincent, an American journalist who was killed last August. Continue reading Iraqis stop British purge of police