Speaker, with permission I would like to make a further
statement about the deployment of UK forces in Iraq.
Monday I explained to the House that the UK military
had received, and was evaluating, a request from the
US military command in Iraq for assistance that would
involve UK land forces operating outside the MND(South
East) area, in support of a combined Iraqi/US force.
reconnaissance team from MND(South East) deployed to
the area in question earlier this week and have now
reported back to the Chiefs of Staff. The team provided
information on a number of issues including logistics,
the length of the potential operation, the likely tasks,
activity levels in the area, the force levels required,
and the command and control arrangements. After careful
evaluation, the Chiefs of Staff have advised me that
UK forces are able to undertake the proposed operation,
that there is a compelling military operational justification
for doing so and that it entails a militarily acceptable
level of risk for UK forces. Based on this military
advice, the Government has decided that we should accept
the US request for assistance.
emphasize again that this was a military request, and
has been considered and accepted on operational grounds
after a thorough military evaluation by the Chiefs of
Staff. As I said on Monday, and as the Prime Minister
said yesterday to the House, this deployment is a vital
part of the process of creating the right conditions
for the Iraqi elections to take place in January.
share with the Iraqi Interim Government and with our
coalition partners a common goal of creating a secure
and stable Iraq, where men, women and children in towns
like Fallujah can feel safe from foreign terrorists,
from the kidnappers who murdered Ken Bigley and from
other criminals. Crucially, Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi
and the Interim Iraqi Government want to establish sufficient
security for elections to take place in January.
successful operations by Iraqi Security Forces and coalition
forces in Tal Afar, Samarra and the outskirts of Fallujah
have been undertaken, to restore areas under the control
of militants and terrorists to the authority of the
Iraqi Interim Government. As a direct result the political
process is now moving ahead.
cannot consider the current UK area of responsibility
in isolation. What goes on in the rest of Iraq affects
southern Iraq and affects UK troops wherever they are
based. We must therefore consider our contribution in
the context of the overall security situation right
means that a UK armoured battlegroup consisting of the
1st Battalion The Black Watch and supporting units will
deploy to an area within MNF(West) to relieve a US unit
for other tasks. They will be deploying with the necessary
combat support services such as medics, signallers and
engineers resulting in a total deployment of around
850 personnel. This deployment will be for a limited
and specified period of time, lasting weeks rather than
cannot give the House further details about the location,
duration or specifics of the mission. Honourable members
on all sides will understand that to do so would risk
the operational security of the mission and potentially
the safety of our forces. The speculation from many
quarters so far has not been helpful. Can I also emphasise
that there are no plans to send a further 1300 troops
to Iraq as suggested this morning.
There have been concerns about UK forces coming under
US Command and about their rules of engagement. The
arrangements for this deployment are that the force
will remain under the operational command of General
Rollo, the UK General Officer Commanding MND(SE).
a day to day basis the Black Watch will of course have
to coordinate their activity with the US chain of command
in the locality, but any changes in the mission or the
tasking would have to be referred back to General Rollo.
As with all UK operations, our forces will operate at
all times under UK rules of engagement. These will provide
proper protection for our forces, as they have throughout
our operations in MND(SE).
is not unusual for UK and US forces to work alongside
each other they have successfully done so not
only in Iraq with US forces often providing logistical
support for our own forces and therefore reducing the
number of troops and assets we need in theatre, but
in operations all over the world. Indeed, in Bosnia,
about 22,000 US troops operated under UK command. As
I said in my statement on Monday, UK forces in Iraq
work alongside forces from Italy, Denmark, Poland, the
Netherlands, Japan and others on a daily basis. This
is an effective and practical way of ensuring coherence
both in our own area and with those that surround it.
has also been speculation as to why there is a need
for this UK force to backfill for a US unit, when there
are around 130,000 US troops in Iraq. The armoured battlegroup
that will deploy brings important qualities of extensive
training, experience, and hard-edge combat capability.
It is not the case, as is often implied, that there
are 130,000 US troops that could take on this task.
In fact, fewer than a third of US forces in Iraq have
the requisite combat capability, and of those even fewer
have the armoured capability that is needed. These specialised
armoured forces are already highly committed across
Iraq a country similar in size to France. The
Chiefs of Staff have further concluded therefore that
the provision of a UK battlegroup to this new mission
would be a significant contribution to and would materially
increase the effect of the continuing operations to
maintain pressure on the terrorists before the January
members on Monday raised the question of whether this
deployment would leave sufficient forces to deal with
contingencies in our own area of responsibility in the
south. The roulement of British Forces currently underway
includes an armoured infantry battlegroup of the 1st
Battalion Scots Guards with their own Warrior armoured
vehicles who will fulfil the divisional reserve role
currently undertaken by the Black Watch. This will result
in General Rollo temporarily having an extra armoured
battlegroup under his command which will provide a very
robust force capable of dealing with contingencies.
It is also worth remembering that the other UK forces
in MND(South East) will continue to carry out their
tasks in the professional and effective manner which
has become so apparent to the people of Basrah and the
surrounding area. Restoring power, water and basic facilities
and supporting the Iraqi authorities in ensuring a robust
level of security.
deployment is limited in scope, time, and space. It
does not represent a significant permanent additional
commitment of forces. The overall trend in the numbers
of our deployment in Iraq remains down, from the peak
of 46000 during the warfighting phase to around 8500
today. This overall downward trend is expected to continue
as we continue to train Iraqi Security Forces to take
over from UK forces as has happened for example
in Al Amarah in Maysan Province.
Government remains totally committed in its support
of the Interim Iraqi Government and the need to hold
free elections in January. We also remain committed
to protecting innocent Iraqis, to dealing with terrorists,
kidnappers and criminals, to training and equipping
Iraqi Forces so that they can take our place providing
security and to seeing a democratic government in Iraq
that takes its rightful place in the international community.
A government that delivers prosperity and a secure future
for the Iraqi people. This is something that should
unite all sides of the House. It is right that the United
Kingdom should contribute to these objectives. And the
deployment of the Black Watch will emphasise to the
Iraqi people that the UK will continue to contribute
to the coalition to see the task through.
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