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Tory 'Troop Warning' - UK


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#1    Lottie

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Posted 16 October 2004 - 11:20 AM

Tory Warning over Iraq Troop Move

Plans to redeploy UK troops to the south of Baghdad to assist US operations have sparked warnings from opposition MPs.  

UK troops have been asked to fill in behind US soldiers, it is understood.

On Saturday, Shadow Defence Secretary Nicholas Soames joined opposition calls for a Commons statement on the government's intentions.

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed discussions are taking place but said no decision on movements had been made.

Mr Soames told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the UK must have an "equal say" in US plans to defeat insurgents.

He added: "The question of chain of command is an extremely important one. I've no objection to British troops serving under American command but it needs to be extremely clearly worked out.

"The rules of engagement must be very clear because they may well be different to those which the regiment would have used in Basra."

BBC defence correspondent Paul Adams said it was thought an American unit had been earmarked for "combat operations" in insurgency stronghold Falluja and that the UK Government was now considering the US request for British cover.

If British troops were deployed to cover for the US, it would be somewhere to the south of Baghdad in "a reasonably benign environment", similar to the British army's base in Basra, he said.

The deployment, which would involve up to 650 personnel coming under US command, was expected to last "a few weeks".

Senior military sources had said the move was being seen as a "relatively risk-free option" and as a matter of "being a good ally to the US", he added.

Counter-insurgency

On plans for defeating the insurgents, Mr Soames told Today it was time the "rather supine" impression that America "ordered everything to happen while we just follow along" must "come to an end".

"We have to make sure that we have an equal share in the planning and an equal input into what the Americans decide to do."

British soldiers would be among those to "pick up the bill" if the operation went wrong, he added.

He also called on Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon to "stir himself" and make  a statement outlining the government's intentions for its troops "to stop the great anxiety" for the families of those involved.

His words echoed those of Tory leader Michael Howard who said on Friday it was "vital that a statement is made in Parliament at the earliest possible opportunity so that we can ask the relevant questions".

Liberal Democrat defence spokesman Paul Keetch warned against the troop movements on Friday, arguing that "British forces should remain under direct British control within the British sector".

One option being considered would involve Scottish troops from the Black Watch Regiment extending their tour of duty in southern Iraq by a short period.

If this option is pursued, the plan would be to have the regiment home in time for Christmas.

Troops are currently acting as the reserve force in the southern city of Basra, and their relatives say they were told they would not be returning home next month as planned.

A MoD spokesman said no decision had been taken to extend their current tour: "Discussions are continuing as these things are always discussed. But if these discussions lead to a decision it will be announced in the normal way."

      

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#2    vimjams

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Posted 17 October 2004 - 04:42 AM

What concerns me personally about this...Apart from putting British lives in deeper danger...Is that British troops will be associated with the less professional and 'trigger happy' tactics of the US forces.

Vimjams
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#3    Talon

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Posted 17 October 2004 - 08:45 PM

'No Bush deal' on UK Iraq troops
Downing Street has denied that proposals to put some troops under US command in Iraq is part of a political deal to help US President George Bush.
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon is to make a statement in the Commons on Monday and will stress any decision would be entirely operational.

Opposition MPs warned ministers against a "political gesture" to the US.

The comments come as thousands of people march in central London calling for the withdrawal of British troops.

A Downing Street spokesman said there was "no political dimension" to any redeployment and no link to the US elections.

This echoed Health Secretary John Reid, who earlier told the BBC these accusations diminished the efforts being made by UK soldiers on the ground.

Mr Reid told BBC's Breakfast with Frost: "There will be occasions when you're fighting in a coalition, where at a given tactical level you operate under your ally's control.


"Americans have already been there. But the decisions will be made on an operational ground and they'll be made for the best reasons."
BBC correspondent Sue Littlemore said in Monday's statement Mr Hoon would say a response to the US request would come after the recommendations of military commanders.

He would probably rule out British troops being sent to Baghdad or Falluja, where the US bombers continued their attacks on Sunday.

It is thought the US request is for a UK force of about 650 to step in because a US unit has been earmarked for "combat operations" in the insurgent stronghold of Falluja.

Bigley body

Former foreign secretary Robin Cook fears UK troops will be blamed for US aggression if redeployed.

Mr Cook, who resigned from the government over the decision to invade Iraq, said: "The real risk of sending a British battalion into the US sector is that our troops could become associated in Iraqi minds with US methods."


Meanwhile thousands of protesters are marching through central London in what has been called by organisers the biggest anti-war march in the UK this year.
The event, organised by the Stop The War Coalition, is supported by Paul Bigley, the brother of murdered hostage Kenneth.

A week after his murder, his body has yet to be recovered and the British Ambassador to Iraq has recorded a formal appeal in Arabic, to be screened later on Arab TV channels, for any information.

Shadow defence secretary Nicholas Soames warned the government must not look like it goes along with everything the US demanded in the run-up to the presidential election.

"We need to watch the timing of all this and be careful that this isn't just being used as a kind of political gesture to reassure the Americans of Prime Minister Blair's support for the American efforts," he told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell said any question of putting British troops under US operational command "would be extremely controversial".

A MoD spokesman said no decision had been taken to extend the current tour of Black Watch Regiment, a likely candidate for the role.

"Discussions are continuing as these things are always discussed. But if these discussions lead to a decision it will be announced in the normal way," the spokesman said.


Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/worl...ast/3750348.stm


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#4    Talon

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 12:45 AM

UK 'has duty to redeploy troops'

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon says Britain will have failed in its duty as an ally if it does not agree to a request from America to relieve US troops in more dangerous areas of Iraq.
The US wants back-up in an area nearer to Baghdad and a final decision is expected later this week.

Mr Hoon has rejected claims that the request is political and an effort to boost George W Bush's election hopes.

He said it was designed to free up US forces for operations in other areas.

There was a "very clear operational justification" for the request which had been received on October 10, he added.

"We 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," Mr Hoon told MPs in a Commons statement.

Instead it was about creating the "best circumstances" for the Iraqi elections to go ahead in January.

"The government remains totally committed to holding free elections in January" and "seeing Iraq take up it's rightful place in the international community," he said.

"The 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.

Black Watch

"The request does not ask for British troops to be deployed in Baghdad or Falluja," Mr Hoon added.

Speaking on the BBC's Newsnight, he denied a decision had already been made, but said the request "seems to me to be part of the responsibility of a good ally to support others in that situation".

He said he understood public concern at British troops being moved to more dangerous areas, but insisted that "overwhelmingly what people want to see [is] security restored to Iraq".

Mr Hoon would not confirm that the troops would come from Scottish-based Black Watch, but acknowledged that it was the UK's reserve battalion.

"They are there in the event of there being a serious breakdown in law and order that requires their participation.

"There is no serious breakdown. Then they can be spared for these extra kinds of operations should the military advice be to that effect."

Once all the issues had been considered, the Chief of the Defence Staff was expected to recommend whether to comply by the middle of this week.

'Oxygen cylinder'

Shadow Defence Secretary Nicholas Soames warned that any such deployment would leave "a big capability gap" in the south-eastern British sector and would represent "a fundamental change" in UK operations in Iraq.

"Given that the security situation could well deteriorate between now and the Iraqi elections, how do you plan to fill such an important capability gap?" he asked.

Black Watch members had been told last week that they would not be coming home, he said.

The families of members would have "watched with disbelief the unfolding shambles of the last few days," Mr Soames added.
For the Liberal Democrats Paul Keetch urged the government to set out what the command structure would be and what input British commanders would have in setting out tasks for UK troops.

Earlier Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy warned against Britain "allowing itself to be sucked further into the mire in Iraq".

As the election neared, Mr Kennedy said, the Bush administration would be "looking for some major breakthrough in terms of their Iraq campaign, and that they want to divert forces accordingly" .

But most anger was felt on Labour's backbenches, with Glenda Jackson MP accusing the government of providing "mercenaries for a Republican army".

Bolsover MP Dennis Skinner said the government was handing President Bush a "lifeline" and an "oxygen cylinder" by freeing up American troops for a pre-election offensive.


Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk_p...ics/3751794.stm

QUOTE
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon says Britain will have failed in its duty as an ally if it does not agree to a request from America to relieve US troops in more dangerous areas of Iraq.


Considering that we're the only one of its allies not talking about pulling out I think this is a really ungrateful sign from America. disgust.gif


QUOTE
Mr Hoon would not confirm that the troops would come from Scottish-based Black Watch, but acknowledged that it was the UK's reserve battalion.


I knew we'd be the cannon fodder rolleyes.gif

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#5    Talon

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 07:37 AM

British team to assess troop move
A British reconnaissance team is set to visit the area near Baghdad where US forces want back-up from UK forces.
It is thought about 650 troops could be moved to the region to free US troops for an assault on Falluja.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon says no decision has been taken but the UK fail as an ally if it refused the request.

Tory leader Michael Howard said there had to be a "compelling" case for the move and it was "an insult" to UK troops for Mr Hoon to call it routine.



Mr Howard said MPs had still not been told why Britain's only reserve force needed to be moved from southern Iraq when there were so many US troops in the country.

"We do not have a reserve force in southern Iraq for fun, "It's there for a purpose," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

But he stressed he would support the move if it really was needed.

The Chief of the Defence Staff is expected to recommend by the middle of this week whether to comply with the request.

On Monday, Mr Hoon said the final decision on whether to move the troops will be based on the findings of the reconnaissance team.

'Good ally'

"Their job obviously is to assess the area where British forces might be deployed to if we agree to this American request, report back to the chiefs, who in turn will formulate appropriate military advice for ministers to take the decision," he told the BBC 2's Newsnight programme.

He said the request "seems to me to be part of the responsibility of a good ally to support others in that situation".

He said he understood public concern at British troops being moved to more dangerous areas, but said that "overwhelmingly what people want to see [is] security restored to Iraq".

In a statement to the Commons on Monday, Mr Hoon told MPs there was a "very clear operational justification" for the request.


He said British troops had not been asked to be deployed in Baghdad itself, or in Falluja.
A battalion from the Black Watch regiment is believed to have been earmarked for the move.

Mr Hoon would not confirm that, but did acknowledge that the regiment was the UK's reserve battalion.

"They are there in the event of there being a serious breakdown in law and order that requires their participation.

"There is no serious breakdown. Then they can be spared for these extra kinds of operations should the military advice be to that effect."

Supply role

Major Charles Heyman, a counter-insurgency expert, said it was believed the British forces could be used to shore up supply lines for US troops further north.


"[American analysts say] the area where the British forces might be sent to would be an area where there is a real problem with getting supply convoys through," he said.
"The British troops involved would be there to ensure that these supplies actually got through to the right place at the right time."

Defence analyst Professor Michael Clark said extending the role of British forces in Iraq carries both military and political risks.

"If the operations in the 'Sunni triangle' don't go right it could create an upsurge in violence throughout Iraq and the British would be affected by that.

"It's also a political gamble because if it works, Tony Blair would be able to turn round to his critics and say 'this is the alliance getting it right in Iraq'. But if it goes wrong then it will appear that Britain has been ensnared into an endless war."

Nearly 7,500 British troops are currently serving in southern Iraq, based mainly around the port of Basra.

The soldiers of the Black Watch regiment had been scheduled to return home next month, but could now remain in Iraq until next year.

Sandy Caird, the father of one soldier, said families were concerned at the prospect of British troops having to adopt "American" tactics.

"They go in with full force. They don't seem to think things out on the ground the same as what we do."


Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk_p...ics/3754954.stm


"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." -Plato

#6    Talon

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 08:07 PM

Labour MPs urge Iraq troop vote
A group of 45 Labour MPs have urged a Commons vote before the Britain agrees to a US request for UK troops to be sent to an area south west of Baghdad.
In a Commons motion the MPs, led by war opponent Alice Mahon, say the move would "significantly increase the risk" to British troops.

Tony Blair has insisted the issue is a military and not a political matter.

The final decision will come after a UK reconnaissance team has visited the area and made its recommendations.

Kidnapped

Redeploying the soldiers would free US troops for an assault on Falluja.

It emerged on Tuesday that the head of operations in Iraq for the charity UK Care International, Margaret Hassan, has been kidnapped in Baghdad.

Mr Blair said Ms Hassan was well-respected and had been doing her "level best" to help Iraq.


The government would do everything it could to secure her release, but did not know which group was holding her, he said.
Britain's chief of defence staff is expected to recommend by the middle of this week whether to comply with America's request for troops to fill in behind its soldiers.

Mr Blair urged people to wait until the scope of any operation were revealed.

He insisted the move was aimed at ensuring Iraq's elections went ahead as planned next January and had nothing to do with the US presidential polls.

"There has been a request by the American military to the British military, not a political request from the US president to me," he added.

'It's too much'

Earlier, Labour MP Eric Illsley told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "It drags us into the US election campaign whether we like it or not."

Fellow backbencher Andrew Mackinlay said he and most of his colleagues did not believe the US was incapable of filling the troops gap with its own forces.

"We have to say thus far and no further," he argued. "We have given 110% and I think they are just asking too much of us."

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he was "very sympathetic" to the US request for troops, but the final decision would not be taken until the reconnaissance mission reported back.

Earlier on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Straw said it was a "myth" to claim the current British area of operations was trouble-free while the US region was in turmoil.
A battalion from the Black Watch regiment is believed to have been earmarked for the move.

Nearly 7,500 British troops are currently serving in southern Iraq, based mainly around the port of Basra.

Sandy Caird, the father of one soldier, said families were worried British troops might have to adopt "American" tactics.

He said: "They go in with full force. They don't seem to think things out on the ground the same as what we do."


Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk_p...ics/3757910.stm



"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." -Plato

#7    Talon

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Posted 19 October 2004 - 10:27 PM

Soldiers' families tell of worry
The families of Black Watch soldiers based in Iraq said it would be a step too far to send British troops to support US efforts around Baghdad.
James Buchanan, from Arbroath, believed it was time for UK troops to withdraw and return his two sons home.

And Rob Scott, from Fife, whose grandson serves with the regiment, said the developments were "disgusting".

The Americans asked for British assistance in the Baghdad area on 10 October.


The Perth-based Black Watch, currently in Basra, may be asked to perform the role.

Mr Buchanan's sons, Gary, 27, and Craig, 25, fought in the war in the Middle East and have been on duty there ever since.

The widower told BBC News Online Scotland of his constant worry for his children, who followed him into the Army.

He said he was now distrustful of any official information coming out about Iraq and added: "The government have been lying through their teeth, they have already lied, so they will probably lie again.


"I know my boys will be sent into the danger areas.
"Let's not kid ourselves, my sons were due to be on leave, they have been told they will not get their leave, and why? It's because they will be redeployed into Baghdad."

Gary and Craig are both married with wives living in Warminster, the Black Watch's English HQ.

His eldest son Gary has a six-year-old son he has not seen in more than six months.

Mr Buchanan said he believed his sons would not have the opportunity for leave until at least January.

He said: "Any chance of a Christmas reunion is out the window.

"They are not only not coming home, they are going to be sent into a very volatile area.

"What is about to be done is the equivalent of invading the Vatican City in Rome - Falluja is an important holy place and the soldiers are putting themselves in the firing line."

'Left in dark'

Mr Buchanan, who said he was very proud of his children and the work they have done in Iraq so far, said it was time Prime Minister Tony Blair "brought the troops back home".

"They went out there two years ago to do a job and they have done a job, but it is now time to leave.

"Morale is at rock bottom among the troops. They don't know when they are coming home and they are being told very little about what is going to happen," said the 56-year-old.

Mr Scott said he was convinced his grandson, Private Charles Scott, 18, would be sent north to Baghdad.

The 61-year-old former Black Watch warrant officer, said: "It's bloody disgusting the lies this government is telling our boys and morale is just going through the floor.
"We're having to go north to clear up the muck the Americans have left behind because they're so pathetic."

Mr Scott, five generations of whose family have served in the historic regiment, warned of an electoral payback for Chancellor Gordon Brown in his constituency of Dunfermline East, part of the Black Watch's recruitment heartland.

Mr Scott, a former Labour councillor, said: "I wrote to Gordon Brown about my fears of body bags of Black Watch soldiers coming home to Fife and he responded saying: 'Your comments are noted.'

"I think that's disgusting when lives are at stake. He'd better watch out because the Black Watch families are going to be after him at the next election and he might just come to regret that."

Mr Buchanan said that his sons' wives were being left in the dark.


He said: "It is a disgrace that my daughters-in-law have to phone me to find out how their husbands are and what might be happening to them."
One son has spent just 15 weeks with his wife in two years of marriage.

Mr Buchanan said that for the last two years he had dreaded the phone ringing in case it was the Ministry of Defence to tell him something had happened to his children.

He added the uncertainty of not knowing what might happen next had left his nerves shattered.

The former Royal Corps of Transport warrant officer suffered a stroke two years ago and the constant worry of having two sons based in Iraq has continued to affect his health.

Mr Buchanan said what was adding to his anger and worry was the thought that the Black Watch regiment could be disbanded to fulfil defence cuts.

"Why is the Black Watch being targeted, they are the best in the world?" he asked.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/scotland/3753812.stm


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#8    Talon

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Posted 20 October 2004 - 11:49 AM

Blair says no troops decision yet
Tony Blair has insisted military commanders in Iraq will decide whether the UK agrees to a US request for back-up from British troops.
In the Commons, Mr Blair insisted no decision had been made about sending troops to a new part of Iraq and criticised ill-informed speculation.

The General leading UK forces in Iraq said the move made military sense but the Tories are querying its necessity.

Forty four Labour MPs have demanded a Commons vote on the move.

In a Commons motion, the MPs say the move would "significantly increase the risk" to British troops.

Mr Blair began the questions session by paying tribute to the work of charity worker Margaret Hassan, who is being held hostage in Iraq.

Everything possible was being done to secure her release, he told MPs.

Mr Blair said if British troops were redeployed they would remain under British military command, and that, whatever was decided, Black Watch troops would be back in the UK by Christmas.

'No decision'

It is thought redeploying the British soldiers to the area south-west of Baghdad would free US troops for an assault on Falluja.

Downing Street refuses to discuss details of the timetable for the possible deployment, insisting the decision would be made in the normal way.

That has led to some speculation that it may be delayed until after the US Presidential election.


Despite ministers' assurances, the Daily Telegraph quotes unnamed defence sources saying a decision was made more than a week ago.

Those reports were denied by General John McColl, the most senior British officer in Iraq.

A military reconnaissance team visited the proposed new operations area on Tuesday and has yet to produce its full report.


The general told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: There will be no question of a decision being taken in advance of that recce being done."

He insisted the UK could refuse the American request.

But he said: "I don't think it would be militarily sensible to do so.

"The request is in response to the situation on the ground. There's been a spike in insurgent activity as a result of the Ramadan period.

"The military commanders have made a request to redeploy forces to meet that situation."

'Weeks not months'

General McColl said other issues would be discussed in London.

High on the agenda would be concerns the move would damage the morale of soldiers of the Black Watch.

The regiment has been used as a reserve in the south-east of Iraq and is thought to have been earmarked for the new role, a move which could extend the soldiers' tour until the end of the year.

The general accepted political considerations would be involved but said: "It's a military response to a military problem."

British commanders in south-east Iraq had been consulted about the possible effects the potential gap the move could create in the region.

"The view is that this is an acceptable risk," said General McColl, who suggested the deployment was likely to last "weeks not months".

In the Commons on Wednesday, Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond is to demand a vote of MPs before any new troops deployment.

The Commons defence select committee is also asking Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon to appear for questioning about the move.

'It's too much'

The request has caused disquiet among some of the Labour MPs who voted for the war.

Eric Illsley told BBC Radio 4's World At One: "It drags us into the US election campaign whether we like it or not."

Fellow backbencher Andrew Mackinlay said he and most of his colleagues did not believe the US was incapable of filling the troops gap with its own forces.

"We have to say thus far and no further," he argued. "We have given 110% and I think they are just asking too much of us."


Nearly 7,500 British troops are currently serving in southern Iraq, based mainly around the port of Basra.



Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk_p...ics/3758856.stm



"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." -Plato

#9    Talon

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Posted 21 October 2004 - 03:33 PM

Hoon confirms Iraq troop movement
Hundreds of British soldiers will be redeployed in central Iraq in response to a US request, the defence secretary has confirmed.
Geoff Hoon told the House of Commons the deployment of about 850 Black Watch troops and support staff would last "weeks rather than months".

He said they would remain under the day-to-day command of British generals.

There were shouts of protest from the benches as Mr Hoon was questioned by opposition members after his statement.

Mr Hoon said the decision was based on military advice.

"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," Mr Hoon said.

The 650-strong Black Watch regiment and about 200 support personnel would move from their base in Basra to near the capital Baghdad.


Mr Hoon denied newspaper reports claiming Britain planned to send a further 1,300 soldiers to Iraq.

Falluja in sights

Redeploying UK soldiers to an area south-west of the Iraqi capital will free US troops for an anticipated assault on insurgent-held Falluja.

"We 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 Falluja can feel safe from foreign terrorists, from the kidnappers who murdered Ken Bigley and from other criminals," Mr Hoon said.

"Crucially, Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi and the interim government want to establish sufficient security for elections to take place in January."
There were frequent shouts of protest during the exchanges that followed Mr Hoon's statement.

Shadow Defence Secretary Nicholas Soames said the Tories supported the redeployment as "a necessary military contribution" to the task of ensuring peace in Iraq in the run-up to January's elections.

But he said MPs would be relieved Mr Hoon had ended "the unnecessary and unacceptable confusion of the last few days".

The Liberal Democrats' Paul Keetch said his party had not supported the war but accepted "we have responsibility for the people of Iraq".

However, he said, British troops should remain in the British sector.

"We do not today support this deployment."

Later the party's deputy leader Sir Menzies Campbell told BBC News 24 the deployment signalled support for the planned American assault on Falluja, in which many civilians were likely to be killed.

He said there was "no public support" for the move.

Military report

Sir Michael said there was a 30-day limit attached to the deployment.

"If time limit is breached, there will need to be a unit to replace the Black Watch," the general said.

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has pledged the troops will be home by Christmas.

A British reconnaissance team visited the deployment area and handed its assessment to military chiefs.

Sir Michael then made a recommendation to ministers on whether to agree to the move.

Opposition to the proposals saw 63 MPs sign a motion calling for a Commons vote on any possible movement of British troops. Mr Blair resisted such a move.

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk_p...ics/3761658.stm



"Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." -Plato

#10    Talon

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Posted 22 October 2004 - 03:58 PM

US welcomes UK troop deployment
The US has welcomed a decision by the UK to redeploy troops to central Iraq after it asked for assistance.
Five hundred Black Watch soldiers and 350 support personnel will move from Basra to the US sector in central Iraq, but remain under British control.

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher praised Britain's support, saying it demonstrated "the kind of role that Britain is prepared to play".

Defence chief Gen Michael Walker said the troops would be home for Christmas.

The redeployment was announced by Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon on Thursday after ministers agreed to the US request, based on a recommendation from Gen Walker.

Mr Boucher said: "It just demonstrates, once again, the kind of role that Britain is prepared to play in a matter that affects their security and our security, the security of all of us, and that is stabilizing Iraq and helping the people of Iraq take control of their destiny and reconstruct their country."
Details of when and where Black Watch will go have not been disclosed, but officials have said it will be within a large area to the south and west of Baghdad.

Gen Walker said the troops will be under "tactical control" of the US commander, but "he has no authority to give them orders that would, in any way, be against the doctrine and training that we would undertake".

"This is an unusual deployment in the context of what has happened so far in Iraq, but this is business as usual for us in the military."

Gen Walker added: "We have a clear-cut task, within a clear-cut geography and time limits."

He reiterated the government's promise that Black Watch will be home for Christmas.

Mr Hoon told MPs there was a "compelling military operational justification" for the move, and it entailed a "militarily acceptable" level of risk.

Preparations for the redeployment have been under way at the Black Watch's base in Basra, in southern Iraq, for several days.

The regiment's Warrior armoured fighting vehicles have been reinforced to provide better protection against possible insurgent attacks.

Shadow Defence Secretary Nicholas Soames said the Tories supported the redeployment as "a necessary military contribution" but criticised the length of time taken to announce a decision, after initial reports of the US request emerged last Friday.


Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/1/hi/uk/3764912.stm



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