‘If there is still a role for UK Forces in Iraq, those Forces must be capable of doing more than just protecting themselves at Basra Air Station,’ MPs have concluded in a report published yesterday.
The House of Commons defence committee report on Iraq adds in its conclusions and recommendations: ‘If the reduction in numbers means they cannot do more than this, the entire UK presence in South Eastern Iraq will be open to question.’
The committee also notes: ‘The MoD has said that, despite transferring security responsibility to the Iraqi Security Forces, UK Forces will retain the capability to re-intervene in South Eastern Iraq if the security situation deteriorates.’
It asks: ‘If that re-intervention capability is to be credible the UK will need to be capable of drawing upon Forces from outside Iraq.
‘We call upon the MoD to clarify how it plans to maintain a re-intervention capacity, which Forces would be assigned to that role, and where they would be based.’
The report’s conclusions express concern over the continuing attacks on civilians in Basra.
It says: ‘The reduction in the number of attacks on UK and Coalition Forces in South Eastern Iraq since August 2007 is significant.
‘However, the fact there has been no corresponding reduction in the number of attacks against the civilian population of the city is a matter of concern.
‘Violence in Basra Province continues to undermine the development of civil society.
‘The relative security of Basra is said to owe more to the dominance of militias and criminal gangs, who are said to have achieved a fragile balance in the city, than to the success of the Multi-National and Iraqi Security Forces in tackling the root causes of the violence.
‘Although the reduction in attacks on UK Forces can only be welcome, this alone cannot be a measure of success.
‘The initial goal of UK Forces in South Eastern Iraq was to establish the security necessary for the development of representative political institutions and for economic reconstruction.
‘Although progress has been made, this goal remains unfulfilled.’
The MPs’ report added: ‘While we welcome the efforts reported to have been made by (puppet police chief) General Jalil to counter murderous, corrupt, and militia-infiltrated elements within the police in Basra, we remain concerned about the present state of the Iraqi Police.’