TIME HAS COME:
TROOPS OUT OF
Liberal Democrats' record on
has been one of timely good judgement at each stage since 2002.
Unfortunately, governments on both sides of the
have failed to listen.
only did they proceed with invading
without the support of the United Nations or the underpinning of
international law, they also failed to plan properly for the aftermath.
This has led directly to the situation now faced in
, where, despite their professionalism and dedication, British troops are
often seen as part of the problem, not the solution.
British and American governments have had many opportunities to change the
The latest came with the
publication of the report of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) in December 2006,
which urged the Bush administration to change course, in particular to
begin the phased withdrawal of coalition troops and draw
’s neighbours, including
, into an international consensus on the way forward.
Bush has rejected the ISG recommendations and instead will be increasing
troop levels and adopting a more robust approach. The Labour Government has
shown itself unable or unwilling to influence the Bush administration or to
formulate a British strategy for
Liberal Democrats have no confidence that President Bush’s new strategy
can improve the situation.
fact that the Bush administration has decided against adopting the advice
of the ISG shuts off the last prospect of our ongoing presence having a
is now on the verge of civil war. The new strategy will accelerate the
descent into civil war and heighten sectarian differences.
both US and British governments seemingly determined to reject a new
strategy, the Liberal Democrats believe the time has come to withdraw
British troops from
announcement of withdrawing British troops should be made immediately. The
relevant Iraqi authorities need to be informed and the logistics properly
The first British
troops would be coming home from the start of May and the British military
part of the multinational division would leave
by the end of October
LIBERAL DEMOCRATS & IRAQ: BACKGROUND
now agree that there were no WMD in
The rationale for the
March 2003 invasion was flawed and the invasion illegal.
The Labour Government’s frequent argument since then that the
invasion was justified by the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime
contradicts its repeated statements before the invasion that it was the
issue of WMD, not the character of the regime, that justified intervention.
Nor does the capture and execution of Saddam Hussein bestow any
legality on the invasion of
Parliament had voted for the intervention, against the unanimous opposition
of Liberal Democrat MPs, we supported our troops in a battle that they had
been instructed by the Labour Government to undertake.
the lack of control of looting, and the subsequent poor decision making by
the appointees of the Bush administration in the immediate aftermath have
undermined any good will that ordinary Iraqis may have felt towards
coalition troops for removing Saddam.
Liberal Democrats argued that the UN should be given the lead in the post
invasion period, and criticised the Coalition Provisional Authority's (CPA)
approach led by the Pentagon.
evidence has shown that our concerns were shared by
officials who were able to exert no influence on the Bremer regime.
The CPA period was a lost opportunity for reconstruction, and
economic and political development.
Liberal Democrats welcomed the constitutional process, but expressed
concerns over the provisions which seemed to encourage partition and
continuing heavy handed approach by US forces, in particular in Abu Graib
and Fallujah, did much to make the security situation worse. Corrupt use of
reconstruction funds further worsened the situation.
the numbers of Iraqis being killed, and also the numbers fleeing the
country, mounted through 2005 and 2006, the Liberal Democrats argued for
internationalising the situation and bringing in all the neighbouring
states to help stabilise the situation. By the end of 2006, the US
Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group came to the same conclusion.
The ISG report received a tentative welcome by the
Margaret Beckett said “we get the impression that their thinking was
broadly in line with our own but obviously we need to read and digest their
formal recommendations and the Prime Minister will of course have an
opportunity to discuss the report with President Bush in Washington
himself was careful not to endorse fully any particular recommendations
until President Bush decided on the next course of action.
Blair refuses to release the transcript of his own evidence to the Iraq
Study Group, so it is difficult to measure how far the report was in line
with British thinking, however it is clear that the strategy they
recommended was compatible with British interests in the region and in line
with comments from senior military officers, such as General Richard
Dannatt, that withdrawal should happen sooner rather than later.
January 2007, President Bush announced that he would not be adopting this
strategy, but would be increasing
troop levels, focusing on security in Anbar province and
, and using a more robust approach.
BRITISH STRATEGY FOR WITHDRAWAL
Liberal Democrats have no confidence that President Bush’s new strategy
to reinforce his previous failures, can improve the situation.
is now on the verge of civil war. The new strategy is likely to accelerate
the descent into civil war and heighten sectarian differences.
four years of occupation, coalition forces have become more a focus for
resentment than a force for containing internal conflict. US forces, under
President Bush’s proposals, will be targeting Sunni insurgents in Anbar,
and may conduct hot pursuit operations into
. They will be targeting Shias in
. They have already taken action against Iranian officials in the Kurdish
north. The Bush Administration has rejected engaging with
. Indeed there are worrying signs that the
may be moving towards preparing for hostilities against
can expect to have no influence on the
strategy, but may suffer from any Shia backlash in the South.
combination of circumstances brings us to the conclusion that it is now no
longer in the
national interest to maintain a military presence in
. Given the lack of
influence over strategy in
, the deepening sectarian conflict, and the increasing antipathy of the
Iraqi people to the coalition forces, the time has come to plan a
controlled exit for British forces. This must be done in such a way as to
minimise risks to other coalition forces, and also avoid exacerbating the
is, however, a continuing moral obligation on the
(following our 2003 intervention) not to take action that will
significantly worsen the situation in
. This calls for a difficult judgment on the relative effects of staying or
forces have had more success in the South of Iraq than others have had
elsewhere. This is partially because of tactics, but also because it is a
Shia area with less sectarian violence. Senior military commanders have
warned of the dangers where the assisting forces over time become seen as
the oppressors, and become themselves targets. The point at which
forces are doing more harm than good is difficult to judge, but after 4
years we judge this point is close.
, under its new strategy, targets Shia strongholds, this may cause
increased animosity towards MND forces in the South.
A clear timetable for withdrawal might reduce such tension.
also has a responsibility to its allies in
. It must not take precipitate action which would endanger MND forces.
Consultation would be required with other allies in MND (SE) currently
). It would also be necessary to negotiate with the
forces a handover of control of security of the supply routes through MND
. The drawdown of the air component, some of which operates beyond the
sector, would also need to be co-ordinated with the
must discharge its wider international responsibility to promoting peace in
. As we have said before, this needs to be led through the auspices of the
UN. We need to continue to argue for regional engagement through the UN. We
also need to ensure that we continue to make contributions to
reconstruction needs through the UN and other bodies. This would include
contributing to the training of Iraqi soldiers and police through NATO and
should also examine how we might more fairly meet our obligations to
refugees from the violence in
. While there might be attractions to engaging in bilateral discussions
, as the neighbouring states to our area of responsibility, this would run
the risk of confusing further the overall strategy for
policy does not allow the UN to take a lead in regional discussions, then
we should look to the EU to take a lead. We must continue to argue for
urgent action on the peace process for
forces should be to a strict timetable, so that all concerned can make firm
plans. The fourth anniversary of the formal end of the combat phase of the
invasion will be on
1 May 2007
, and reductions could begin from that date and be completed within 6
months. Such a timetable will give up to three months for negotiations with
the Iraqi government, allies in the coalition forces, and neighbouring
states, to ensure the optimum drawdown arrangements. It is likely that
three out of the four
provinces will already be handed over to Iraqi forces by then, leaving
Basrah. The city would be handed over between May and July. Tornado GR4 in
would also be removed from coalition air forces during this period. The
logistic supply route to
would then be handed over between August and September, and final
withdrawal of remaining training, logistic and air support assets completed
should review, and if necessary increase, our aid to
, and ensure that our contribution is made through the UN.
a withdrawal plan would have to be handled sensitively with the Iraqi
government, the local
authorities and the
. It is however clear that we are unable to sustain operations in both
given the sustained over commitment of British forces. A drawdown is
necessary if we are to be able to sustain our presence in
, and given our belief that we are no longer improving the situation in