British General Sir Richard Dannatt sent an open letter to his troops in which he defended the miltary strategy employed in handling the Basra area. There is considerable unrest among British soldiers who now are confined to the Basra airport even as fighting rages inside Basra. “I can not deny that there are many who said that they would rather be at the forefront of the operations(as CGS I think I would be worried if I headed an Army that did not express such views), but those same individuals were all mature enough to understand it is right that the Iraqis are now taking the lead. Indeed, these are exactly the nature of operations that we have been pressing for some months-an Iraq solution to an Iraq problem.”
General Dannatt expressed his view that, while Iraq led operations made numerous mistakes, the overall conclusion is the Iraqi army did accomplish its goals of establishing its presence in Basra. “The Iraqi plan is working and is delivering what we sought.” He indicated the future role of British forces would be to “mentor the Iraqi Security Forces” and to avoid assuming a major role in military operations.
Ironically, many American political leaders are urging a similar policy on the part of American forces, but President Bush insists the Iraqis are not quite ready. Perhaps, if the British model of forcing them to get ready was utilized, the United States Army could begin to envision itself as a mentoring rather than a fighting force.