Britain abandoned Iraq to terror, says US general

By Peter Wozniak

The UK’s withdrawal from its deployment in southern Iraq constituted a “defeat” according to US generals.

The generals, speaking to a series for the BBC to be aired tonight, claimed that British troops abandoned their positions in Basra allowing local people to be “brutalised” by militia.

General Jack Keane, who advised the Bush White House during the crucial stages of the American ‘surge’, now retired, had little to praise in the actions of British forces.

“I think it was a huge mistake to pull out of Basra and to go out to the airfield and to leave the people of Basra to be subjected to the Iranian surrogates who brutalised them, intimidated them, terrorised them”, he told the programme makers.

Meanwhile, Colonel Peter Mansour, the former executive officer to the current American commander in Afghanistan, Gen Petraeus, said the UK withdrawal could only be characterised as a “defeat”.

Britain’s forces throughout the campaign were based in and around the southern city of Basra, though violence escalated prior to the US “surge”, while UK units were being shifted to the Afghan theatre.

British commanders were unable to defend the city, and made a deal with Shia militia in order to pull out to the local airport in safety.

General Jonathan Shaw, who commanded the British forces in southern Iraq, played down the suggestions of defeat, arguing on the programme that his actions were “as good a play of a hand as we could have” given the “extremely awkward circumstances”.

The programme, called ‘Secret Iraq’, airs tonight on BBC Two.