Monday, October 23, 2006

More questions on the strategies in Iraq and Afghanistan

The Observer on Sunday reported another prominent British (retired) general's problems with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan:
Field Marshal Sir Peter Inge, the former head of Britain's armed forces, has broken ranks to launch an attack on the current military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, warning that British forces risk defeat in Afghanistan.

In one of the strongest interventions in the conduct of the War on Terror, Inge also charged a lack of any 'clear strategy' guiding British operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

His comments came as President George Bush met his military and political officials to consider fresh tactics over Iraq, amid a mood of crisis in Washington over the violence.

The remarks by the former chief of the defence staff, who also served on the Butler Commission into intelligence failures in Iraq, follow those by the present head of the British Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, who warned that the presence of British troops in Iraq had 'exacerbated' security problems in the country.

Inge's intervention, coming amid growing speculation about Britain's exit strategy from Iraq, is the first criticism of operations by a former head of the British army. His comments, made at a meeting of European experts on Tuesday and published here for the first time, reflect the growing dismay among senior military officers and civil servants involved in defence and foreign affairs, that in the critical areas of Afghanistan and Iraq Britain lacked clear foreign and defence policies separate from the US.

'I don't believe we have a clear strategy in either Afghanistan or Iraq. I sense we've lost the ability to think strategically. Deep down inside me, I worry that the British army could risk operational failure if we're not careful in Afghanistan. We need to recognise the test that I think they could face there,' he told the debate held by Open Europe, an independent think tank campaigning for EU reform.

Inge added that Whitehall had surrendered its ability to think strategically and that despite the immense pressures on the army, defence received neither the research nor funding it required.

'I sense that Whitehall has lost the knack of putting together inter-departmental thinking about strategy. It talks about how we're going to do in Afghanistan, it doesn't really talk about strategy.'


Although Bush has admitted that tactics on the ground could change in response to the latest violence, he insisted in his weekly radio address yesterday that there would be no change in the overall strategy.


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