Monday, March 31, 2003

British Commanders Question War Strategy
'The commanders did not anticipate the level of resistance from Iraqi soldiers and the population at large in southern Iraq, where the British effort is concentrated, an informed defense source said. British and American intelligence reports had suggested that the south, dominated by Muslim Shiites with a long history of repression by President Saddam Hussein's government, "would fall into our hands," as the source put it.

'Instead, British forces, including the 1st Armored Division, have stopped outside Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, engaging Iraqi forces when they attack but avoiding entering the city of more than 1 million. This pause has kept the British from racing north toward the city of Kut to support the American drive to Baghdad, as was originally planned, the source said. As a result, important momentum has been lost.'

'There are reports that the British will be asked to send in more forces. But Gen. Mike Jackson, the army chief of staff, said at a news conference here that his forces were already stretched because nearly 19,000 have been left home to cover for sporadic walkouts by Britain's firefighters union. "We're on a surge basis . . . [which] is not sustainable over a long period of time," Jackson said.'

'Garden said the British military establishment had originally been reluctant to endorse the Iraqi campaign because they considered it risky and unnecessary. "Among my former military colleagues, not a single one thought this was a good idea," he said. "And almost all were prepared to say so in public." The problem now, said Garden, is whether to rush forward to besiege Baghdad or wait for reinforcements. Such a halt, however temporary, would further stall the campaign's momentum. "It might even look like a retreat," he said.'

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