Speaker, with permission I would like to make a statement
about the deployment of UK forces in Iraq.
has been considerable speculation in the media over
the past several days about the United Kingdom deploying
forces outside its current area of operations in southern
only relevant fact is that the UK military received
a request on 10 October from the US military command
in Iraq for assistance.
requests and discussions between allies are routine.
There is regular dialogue with our Coalition allies
and with the Iraqi security forces on all aspects of
operations in Iraq. Requests for assistance form part
of these exchanges. The actual disposition of Coalition
Forces in Iraq has been adjusted regularly since the
end of combat operations. The Danish contingent, for
example, has taken on a greater share of responsibility
within MND(SE), and the Japanese have deployed a 500
strong contingent into the Dutch Area of Operations.
particular request, if agreed, would involve UK land
forces operating outside MND(SE). It is worth bearing
in mind that Royal Air Force personnel have been operating
over the whole of Iraq when required to support the
Coalition, and that some British personnel are based
in Baghdad to support Coalition operations. Other British
land forces have previously operated outside MND(SE).
security forces and Coalition forces have recently been
involved in intensified operations to restore areas
under the control of militants and terrorists to the
authority of the Iraq Interim Government. Recent operations
in Najaf, in Samarra, and in North Babil have been undertaken
as part of this effort. The political process is moving
ahead as a result of these actions.
strategy is designed to increase pressure on and deal
with those terrorists who are trying to prevent the
rebuilding of Iraq, and who threaten the holding of
free elections in January.
US request is for a limited number of UK ground forces
to be made available to relieve US forces to allow them
in turn to participate in further operations elsewhere
in Iraq to maintain the continuing pressure on terrorists.
The request does not ask for UK troops to be
deployed to Baghdad City, nor to Fallujah.
are obviously considering this request. There are a
number of issues that require assessment, including:
timing; the length of the potential operation; command
and control arrangements; logistics; and which forces
would be the most appropriate to conduct the operation.
None of these details have as yet been decided, and
a UK reconnaissance team will deploy to the area tomorrow
to provide further information which will inform the
Chiefs of Staff. I expect the final recommendation from
the Chief of the Defence Staff by the middle of the
these factors require careful consideration. Once we
have made a decision, I will inform the House in the
over the weekend has focused on the suggestion that
the request is somehow political, and its timing linked
to elections. I want to make clear that the request
is a military request. And although it is linked to
elections, it is not linked to the US elections, but
with efforts to create the best possible security situation
in which to hold the Iraqi elections in January.
number of commentators have voiced concerns about UK
forces coming under US command, and about rules of engagement.
If we agree to this request, the arrangements will ensure
that Uk forces have a specific task; they will be responsible
for a particular area. There are no practical difficulties
for UK forces operating alongside those from the US.
Our forces are fully engaged with all of our Coalition
partners at every level of planning. On a daily basis,
UK forces work alongside forces from Italy, from Denmark,
and other nations including Poland, the Netherlands,
and Japan. This is a matter of routine and is an effective
and practical way of ensuring coherence both in our
own area and with those areas that surround it.
rules of engagement are more than adequate for tasks
of the type envisaged. There is no need to adjust them.
They will provide proper protection for UK forces, as
they have during operations in volatile areas in our
own sector, such as in Al Amarah.
is worth noting that, as the capabilities of the Iraqi
security forces develop, they will expand the areas
under their independent control. As a result, Coalition
forces will need to become more able to act flexibly
in support of Iraqi security forces, as they in turn
take on greater responsibility for the protection of
Iraqi civilians and property.
Government remains totally committed to holding free
elections in January. And to seeing a government in
Iraq that takes its rightful place in the international
community, and one that delivers prosperity and a new
future for the Iraqi people. This is something that
should unite all sides of the House. It is right that
the United Kingdom should do what it can to contribute
to this fundamental strategic objective.
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