The coming battle of Basra (update) Posted by: McQ
on Monday, August 27, 2007
In case you missed it, the Brits - who were fond of telling us early on in the war in Iraq how badly we were handling it all - have essentially handed Basra over to the Shia militias:
Shiite militiamen from the Mahdi Army took over the police joint command center in Basra on Sunday after British soldiers withdrew from the facility and handed control to the Iraqi police, witnesses said.
Police left the building when the militiamen, loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, arrived, the witnesses said.
The British military disputed the reports, saying they had been in contact with the Iraqi general in charge of security in Basra, who has said the Mahdi Army was not there.
But the witnesses said the Mahdi Army emptied the building — taking generators, computers, furniture and even cars, saying it was war booty — and remained there in the early evening.
The British military had maintained a small number of soldiers at the command center to help train Iraqi police.
So I guess turnabout is fair play:
Last Wednesday, former U.S. Army Gen. Jack Keane, who was vice chief of staff at the time the Iraq war was launched in 2003, said Britain has allowed deteriorating security in southern Iraq to get worse.
He warned that American troops may need to plug the gaps if Prime Minister Gordon Brown withdraws significant numbers of British soldiers.
Obviously, at some point, a real 'clear and hold' operation is going to have to be mounted to wrest control of the city from the Mahdi Army and put the civilian authorities in control at some future point.
Nice job, Brits.
UPDATE: Here's the utility of the bloggers roundtable. I'm on the phone right now with MG James E. Simmons, Deputy Commanding General Support with Multi-National Corps-Iraq. I asked about the International Herald Tribune story cited above and he says it is "just not accurate". He says he has no idea where the Tribune got its information, but the hand-over has not given the Mahdi army control over the city.
Here's his answer from the transcript of the call:
Q General, good afternoon. Bruce McQuain with Q&O.net. There's a story today in the Herald Tribune, International Herald Tribune, about the British moving out of Basra, and a report that the Mahdi Army has essentially moved in. How does that impact your operations in Phantom Strike?
GEN. SIMMONS: Well, first of all, I don't know where they got their information, but it is not accurate. We turned over, in a planned operation, the Basra palace to the Iraqi security forces, an operation that has been scheduled and planned for over nine months. It was done in a deliberate manner.
It was coordinated with the Iraqi government and it was supervised by General Mohan, a four-star general who runs the military operations for the Iraqis in Basra, and the British forces that were stationed there. The British forces have consolidated into one FOB, forward operating base, that is around the airfield there on the northwest side of Basra.
So I don't — I have absolutely — (audio break) — idea of what they're talking about the Mahdi Army taking over Basra. That is just absolutely untrue.
Obviously, at some point, a real ’clear and hold’ operation is going to have to be mounted to wrest control of the city from the Mahdi Army and put the civilian authorities in control at some future point.
A few questions:
#1: Aren’t the Mahdi army and the civilian authorities one and the same? Who, exactly, would be put in charge?
#2: Any idea if the civilian population of Basra is in favor of that?
#3: With troops from where?
#4: Don’t our supply lines for Baghdad run through that area and points west?
I’m skeptical that this will ever happen, or that it’s a good idea.
Oh, and, bonus:
#4: Gee, the Brits are leaving and.... where’s the genocide??