We're back at war in Iraq, says general
London Telegraph | September 19 2004
Gen Sir Mike Jackson, the head of the Army, has admitted that British troops in Iraq are "back at war". He is the first authoritative figure to concede that war is still being waged in Iraq, 16 months after President George W Bush declared that combat operations were over.
In an interview with The Telegraph, the Chief of the General Staff said that August had been a difficult month for soldiers serving in southern Iraq.
"Soldiers are now fighting a counter-insurgency war," said Sir Mike. "August was a very busy month and British soldiers were involved in war fighting."
The general said that many of the terrorists were foreigners who had entered Iraq through one of its many porous borders, and some were known to be Syrians.
"The insurgents are made up of both indigenous and foreign fighters and there is evidence that some of these terrorists are Syrians," he said. "Iraq's borders are long and very open but, if more could be done to secure borders, the security situation in Iraq would improve.
"The suicide bombers are unlikely to be Iraqi. Suicide is just not their way, so there is evidence that the insurgents are being supported from outside Iraq," said the general.
Although he admitted that the situation in Iraq was difficult, Sir Mike denied that it was unresolvable, or that the British Army had been unprepared to deal with internal security after regime change had been achieved.
"I don't think we were caught out by this counter-insurgency war. From a British dimension, the planning for post-war Iraq had allowed for a less-than-benign atmosphere, so I don't think it is fair to say that we were caught out or unprepared," he said.
Tony Blair last night sought to quash claims that he had been warned a year before invading Iraq that the war could result in chaos and require large numbers of troops for "many years".
The Prime Minister spoke out after leaked documents were published in The Telegraph detailing a series of concerns expressed by Jack Straw and some of the most senior officials in 10 Downing Street and Whitehall.
The Conservatives said the leak showed that Mr Blair had misled people in claiming that a clear plan existed for dealing with the aftermath of war.
It threatened to mar talks between Mr Blair and the interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi in Downing Street this week.
At Leeds Castle in Kent, after talks on the Northern Ireland peace process, the Prime Minister insisted there had been a plan for the aftermath of war and described Iraq as "the crucible" of the fight against terror.
"Having read in the papers that apparently I was warned of the chaos that was going to ensue in Iraq, I actually got the minute Jack sent me. It didn't do anything of the sort," Mr Blair said.