Tuesday, March 3, 2009
ARMY top brass last night claimed victory in the Iraq war as hero Brit troops prepare to leave the country.
With almost all Our Boys due home from the war-torn nation by the end of July, most people will be glad to see the back of a campaign which has cost 179 lives.
But despite the controversy over the invasion and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction, top UK officers and diplomats reckon the campaign was well worth it.
They say the peace and prosperity brought in the last year to Basra mean a bright future for Iraqis.
Once Iraqi forces had triumphed over the militias then running riot in 2008’s hard-fought Charge Of The Knights campaign, locals said Basra was transformed virtually overnight.
Up to 500 militants were killed and many more wounded in street fights as the Iraqi troops triumphed, backed by UK Challenger 2 tanks, artillery and supplies.
Now British top brass claim Basra is stable, secure and an example to the rest of Iraq.
They likened victory to a last-minute winning goal after a fiercely-contested football match.
Consul-general Nigel Hayward, the Foreign Office’s man in Basra, said: “It is like scoring a late winner but it wasn’t a fluke goal. For the last ten minutes of the match we were well on top.
“The military will move out and can do so knowing they’ve taken the best possible advantage since Charge Of The Knights.
“Some people say it’s a bad war gone good. But even those people have to admit at this stage it looks like we are on course for one of the few stable democracies in the Middle East.” And Mr Hayward is in no doubt who should take the most credit – the UK military and the families who have lost servicemen and women.
He added: “Without the sacrifices made by the 179 families who lost someone, we wouldn’t be in the
position we are in now, which is a very optimistic one for Iraq.
“The families can be proud of what their sons and daughters achieved.”
Lt Col Sadeq Barak, of Iraq’s 50th division, said: “I thank all the British soldiers because they were so helpful in making a democracy here in Iraq and sacrificed their lives for our country.”
Military spokesman Lt Col Dickie Winchester said: “We are in a successful place now. It feels like people are debating the causes of Dunkirk while we are driving to Berlin.”
And Major-General Andy Salmon, in charge of British and US forces in south-east Iraq, said the British public should recognise the job Our Boys have done.
He said: “All our people want is to be recognised for their heroism and for people to say their
sacrifice wasn’t in vain.
“Lots of people weren’t happy with the beginning of this. But we’d say what is important is not how it started, it is how it ends.
“They stuck through all the troubles, seeing their friends being killed, and they are still here.
“They’ve stuck to the task, adapted as they’ve gone along, rolled their sleeves up and got on with it. That’s a heroism and a commitment to the task of the highest order.”