British Tout Basra Model




 
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Boots
 
December 14th, 2007  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: British Tout Basra Model


Los Angeles Times
December 14, 2007 Officials say the rapid withdrawal and transfer to Iraqi security forces has forced the provincial government to step up and warring militias to reconcile. U.S. officials are skeptical.
By Peter Spiegel, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
WASHINGTON With Britain poised to hand control of vital Basra province to the Iraqi government Sunday, U.S. and British military officials are at odds over whether the move provides a model for establishing stability elsewhere in Iraq.
Senior officers in the British military, which has begun a withdrawal that will drop Britain's troop level from 7,000 to 2,500 by spring, have argued that the pullback from central Basra city in September has put pressure on rival Shiite Muslim factions to reconcile, dramatically reducing violence in Iraq's second-largest city.
But senior U.S. commanders said they remained skeptical of British claims that the move has been a success that can be replicated elsewhere, pointing to the difference between ethnic compositions in the southern province and other areas.
The outcome of the debate over Basra, the last of four southern provinces where Britain has ceded control, could have implications for American military strategy in the summer when U.S. troop levels will return from 20 combat brigades to a pre-buildup level of 15.
U.S. commanders are under pressure from some military and political leaders in Washington to make additional reductions to relieve the overstretched Army. In addition, Democratic members of Congress are pressing for a strategy similar to the British one: a speedy withdrawal that hands security and governance responsibility to local leaders.
Senior U.S. commanders in Iraq are wary of allowing troop levels to fall below 15 brigades, warning that a "race to 10" could lead to backsliding in the still-precarious security situation.
One senior British military official said civilian Pentagon officials recently visited the city of Basra to see whether lessons could be drawn from the withdrawal. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing private talks between the British and U.S. militaries, asserted that U.S. officials came away impressed by the transformation and suggested it could influence American policy elsewhere in Iraq.
"The levels of violence have come down so dramatically that they believe there are lessons that can be drawn from it," the British official said.
But U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, who serves as day-to-day commander in Iraq, said Basra, because of its largely Shiite makeup, is different from central and northern Iraq, areas that still suffer sectarian violence between Shiite and Sunni Arabs.
"Basra is a Shia-on-Shia communal power struggle," Odierno said in an interview. "We'll learn some lessons from that, but they won't necessarily completely translate to the other parts of Iraq."
In addition, senior aides to Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said that though statistics measuring violence levels in Basra had declined, it was not clear whether attacks actually had decreased or the Iraqi troops who have taken over had failed to accurately report incidents.
Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson, Odierno's chief of staff, said the rapid hand-over in Basra had led to a trade-off in which Iraqi officials have been pressured into administering the province, even as the security situation remained tenuous.
"The counter argument is it's probably the only city, if we want to go downtown and do something, we just don't go downtown and do it. We don't like that," Anderson said about Basra. "Any other city in this country, to include even Sadr City, a portion of it, we can go in there and do something and not have to worry about it," he said, referring to the Shiite district of Baghdad where the Mahdi Army militia is dominant.
British officials dispute such claims. The British military official said that continued mentoring of Iraqi forces had given a clear view of declining violence in the province.
Arguing that Basra can serve as a model, British officials have begun to make their case with more intensity as their withdrawal has gained speed.
"Can the U.S. draw some lessons from what we've done?" asked the British military official. "If we allow the Iraqis to . . . take a little risk and we have levels of violence they can control, maybe we don't need to hold on quite so long."
Disagreements between the two allies over Basra have festered since Gordon Brown, the new British prime minister, announced in October that his government would cut its troops to 4,500 by the end of this year, with further reductions to 2,500 by spring.
Although officials in both governments at the time publicly declared the British decision was made in close coordination with Petraeus, some U.S. military officials have since said they were privately upset by the move, particularly since it came as the U.S. was sending more troops into Baghdad as part of its buildup.
"When the U.K. made the decision to leave the city center, there were a lot of folks in this building, and in other places, that were very, very skeptical of that course of action," said a senior Pentagon official who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the subject. "To be blunt, there were some that were quite critical of the U.K. decision to do that."
American commanders in Iraq since have acknowledged that the British withdrawal has shown some success, but they remain less convinced that there has been as much progress as the British assert.
A second British military official said that although British forces were consistently attacked as they moved through Basra before the September drawdown, the redeployment from the city's downtown palace to an outlying airport has made it easier for foreign troops to operate.
"Since that withdrawal, the responsibility for the security of Basra city has gone to [Iraqi forces], and by and large, that level of violence that was against us went away," the official said. "We can now and do transit through Basra city in order to conduct other missions."
In addition, a diplomatic official sympathetic to the British stance said that with the British withdrawal, militias that fought them were less inclined to tap Iranian and other outside influences for arms and support.
But residents and independent observers continue to raise questions about whether the British withdrawal has improved security.
Amatzia Baram, an expert on Basra at the University of Haifa in Israel, said the occasional turf wars among various Shiite factions in the city had resulted in a "reign of terror," if not the carnage of sectarian violence farther north.
"No woman can walk in the street unless she is completely covered, including Christians," Baram said. "There are no music shops, no liquor stores, no barbers. It's like the most backwards parts of Iran."
Residents have raised similar concerns. Although there is widespread support for withdrawal of British forces, which were largely viewed as foreign occupiers, security in Basra has not improved since their departure, several residents said.
Ali Yaseen Taha, 30, an employee at a fertilizer factory and a member of one of the Shiite militias, said the British departure had led to an intense and occasionally violent jockeying for position among factions.
"Nobody wants their country to remain occupied and nobody likes to see a foreign army in his country, but the presence of these forces strengthens the Iraqi security forces until they can manage on their own," Taha said. "Basra is living in a very difficult period, especially since the withdrawal of the British forces."
Times staff writers Julian E. Barnes and Timothy M. Phelps in Washington and Raheem Salman in Baghdad contributed to this report.
December 14th, 2007  
Del Boy
 
Well- tho' it pains me to say so - one line being taken here is that the Americans have successfully 'won' their project in quieting the north and we have lost the battle in the south. I sincerely hope this is not proved true; if it should sadly be a correct assumption, then blame our government, on many scores, and not our troops.

Our troops are up for fighting OK. I am told that they are all rooting to get to Afghanistan where they can get into the battles as soldiers , rather than to Iraq as policemen.

Whatever, I sincerely hope that the worst is over in Iraq. Either way, I salute the US efforts.
December 14th, 2007  
mmarsh
 
 
Del Boy

I don't think we have won anything. Things are quieter in the north because of the 'surge' and the fact that the Sunni and Shiites militias have mutually agreed to stop the attacks on each other. However the hardliner insurgents will eventually adapt to the surge especially when the extra troops pullout in March and then the violence will continue.

The hawks keep saying the violence is down in the North. Thats only a half-truth, the # of attacks is down, but 2007 has been the deadliest year (in terms of KIA) since this whole bloody mess started.

And furthermore the one thing that can bring a permanent peace to Iraq is nowhere near resolved -a stable Iraq government.

BTW the reason for the British rapid withdrawal was because patrolling the south got too dangerous. Short of evacuating southern Iraq completely the British simple confined themselves to their bases and locked themselves in. Its the Sunni militia that patrol the south.
--
Boots
December 14th, 2007  
Del Boy
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mmarsh
Del Boy

Its the Sunni militia that patrol the south.

How does that hang with the Shia majority? At least once in his life Sadam spoke the truth when he said that if we went into Iraq -'the sand would burn beneath our feet'. Always terrific on rhetoric, ain't they?
 


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