last 48 hours have been historic for the people of Basrah.
decades under the heel of Saddam's brutal regime, UK
forces are in the process of delivering liberation to
the people of Basrah. There will be some difficult days
ahead but the Ba'athist regime is finished in Basrah.
These people have lived above the law for many many
years. The process of calling them to account is ongoing.
Whatever the Iraqi information Minister may say, and
his statements over the last few weeks have taken denial
to new and increasingly bizarre heights, the days of
the Ba'athist regime are numbered. The threat that this
regime poses to the world through Weapons of Mass Destruction
is fast diminishing. We will continue until the threat
is eradicated. The process of liberating the whole of
is not without a price and in the course of operations
in Basrah we have taken some casualties. Three UK soldiers
have so far been killed and some have been injured.
Operations are ongoing against the remnants of the Ba'athist
paramilitaries so UK forces and the civilian population
still remain at risk. Since operations to liberate Iraq
commenced the UK have had 30 personnel killed - and
two are missing presumed killed. Some have been the
result of enemy action; others have been due to accidents.
However these brave men died, our thoughts continue
to be with their families and friends. I hope that they
are at least able to take some comfort from the joyous
scenes we have seen in Basrah and elsewhere. They did
not die in vain.
want to take a few minutes to explain operations in
Basrah. You will be aware that UK forces had been poised
on the outskirts for some days and have engaged the
Ba'athist paramilitaries routinely. We mounted armoured
thrusts into the city to undermine the paramilitaries'
confidence and add to the hope of the population. In
the early hours of Sunday morning, Challenger tanks
from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards alongside the Black
Watch moved into the south and west of Basrah to test
the resolve of the paramilitaries. They found only limited
resistance. Commanders on the ground - Major General
Robin Brims who is the General Officer Commanding 1
(UK) Armoured Division and Brigadier Graham Binns of
7 Armoured Brigade - the renowned Desert Rats - decided
to exploit this opportunity and begin the liberation.
and Warrior from the Black Watch and the Royal Scots
Dragoon Guards, supported by elements of the Irish Guards,
pressed further into the city from the west.
2nd Royal Tank Regiment battlegroup swiftly moved into
the centre of the city in their Challengers, supported
by Warrior armoured vehicles.
Royal Regiment of Fusiliers battlegroup - again in Warriors
supported by Challengers quickly dominated the North
of the city and around the dock area.
Commando Royal Marines from 3 Commando Brigade moved
deep into the South of the city, focusing on the palace
3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment are in the process
of sweeping the "old town" in Basrah which
is a myriad of narrow winding streets and alleyways
so has to be done on foot.
our forces have engaged the paramilitaries whenever
they presented themselves across the city. As I speak,
operations are ongoing.
I am very proud of what they have achieved. The people
of Basrah are getting their first real glimpse of the
courage, tenacity and professionalism of our armed forces.
I hope the people back in UK take satisfaction from
that. Over the coming days we will engage with the people
of Basrah in the same way UK forces have done in Umm
Qasr, Az Zubayr and countless hotspots around the world.
We will move quickly from combat operations to peace
support operations and start to set the condition for
the people to get back to normality. Our people are
the greatest asset any commander could wish for. But
there will be difficult days ahead; paramilitary resistance
from the remnants of the regime will not just disappear.
We must proceed carefully to reduce the risk to both
the civilian population and our forces; this takes time.
also want to say a few words about the US advance on
Baghdad. Naturally I have enormous personal and professional
interest in the conduct of military operations. As a
former commandant of the UK Joint Command and Staff
College, the study of developments in post-modern warfare
is a particular passion of mine.
US advance on Baghdad is something that military historians
and academics will pour over in great detail for decades
to come. It will be a required case study for Staff
college students throughout the world who will examine
the dexterity, audacity and sheer brilliance of how
the US put the plan into effect. The US has, of course,
paid a price. As coalition partners we share their loss
of personnel and salute their courage.
decades of oppression, the people of Iraq will take
time to trust us. We must earn their respect. We take
our responsibilities to the Iraqi people very seriously.
We are already earning some of that respect by bringing
stability to parts of Southern Iraq. We are showing
them that we come as liberators not oppressors. We now
want to enable and facilitate their recovery from 25
years of wicked oppression.
forces are already patrolling the streets of Umm Qasr,
Saffwan and Az Zubayr in berets rather than helmets.
We have seen schools opening; we turned the lights on
in Umm Qasr for the first time for many, many months.
Overall our troops are doing what British troops do
best - giving the Iraqi people confidence.
forces are beginning to set the conditions for the NGOs
such as the International Committee of the Red Cross,
the Red Crescent and UNICEF to put in train projects
for the longer term. The UNESCORD have recently announced
that Umm Qasr is a permissive environment and we hope
that this will spread to other areas when appropriate.
To provide some short term emergency humanitarian assistance,
UK engineers have built a 3 km long pipeline to pump
supplies of water to Umm Qasr. It is pumping 2 million
litres of fresh water every day - enough for 160,000
people. RFA Sir Galahad has already delivered
over 200 tons of humanitarian aid which is being distributed
in an orderly way. As I speak, the Royal Fleet Auxiliary
Sir Percivale is docking at Umm Qasr with another
300 tons of emergency humanitarian assistance.
the first 7 days of this month we have delivered over
a million litres of bottled water and over 100,000 humanitarian
daily rations by lorry from Kuwait.
is a lot of speculation at the moment about the transition
stage between military operations and the emergence
of a new representative Iraqi government. The general
parameters of the plan have already been described by
others; a partnership between the coalition military
providing security; ORHA (Office of Reconstruction and
Humanitarian Assistance) to help with rebuilding Iraq,
an emerging Iraqi political leadership, and the UN.
I am not going to give you a great deal more detail
for a number of reasons, firstly many of the specifics
will depend on the situation on the ground post conflict,
secondly I am a military commander not a politician,
and thirdly this issue in on the agenda for Prime Minister
Blair and President Bush who are meeting this evening
in Belfast. I expect them to make a statement tomorrow.
But as I said, the basic architecture is clear, and
agreed between us all, the US, British and UN, to move
towards a representative Iraqi Government as soon as
we reasonably can.
can be immensely proud of what we have achieved so far
but we will keep pressing ahead until this regime is
consigned to history and the threat they pose to the
world is eradicated. All the people of Iraq will be
free and they can begin the process of governing themselves
and re-entering the family of the international community.
day is fast approaching.
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