Gen Sir Mike Jackson attacks US over Iraq
By Con Coughlin and Neil Tweedie
Last Updated: 12:18am BST
General Sir Mike Jackson, the head of the British Army during the invasion of Iraq, has launched a scathing attack on the United States for the way it handled the post-war administration of the country.
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The former chief of the general staff said the approach taken by Donald Rumsfeld, the then US defence secretary, was "intellectually bankrupt", describing his claim that US forces "don't do nation-building" as "nonsensical".
Sir Mike's comments - made in his forthcoming autobiography Soldier, serialised exclusively in The Daily Telegraph - represent the most outspoken criticism of American military policy in Iraq to come from a senior British officer.
His attack - the first time he has revealed the depth of his anger towards the US administration - highlights the deep-seated tension between the British command and the Pentagon during the build-up to and the aftermath of the Iraq campaign in 2003.
Sir Mike, who took command of the British Army one month before US-led forces invaded Iraq, said Mr Rumsfeld was "one of those most responsible for the current situation in Iraq".
Crucially, the general writes, he refused to deploy enough troops to maintain law and order after the collapse of Saddam's regime, and discarded detailed plans for the post-conflict administration of Iraq that had been drawn up by the US State Department.
In the book, Sir Mike says he believes the entire US approach to tackling global terrorism is "inadequate" because it relies too heavily on military power at the expense of nation-building and diplomacy.
His outspoken remarks are likely to increase tensions between the British and US military over policy in Iraq.
Last month American officials claimed that British forces had been defeated in Basra and had surrendered control of Iraq's second city to lawless militias and criminal gangs.
Speaking on the eve of the book's publication, Sir Mike last night defended the record of Britain's military deployment in Basra.
"I don't think that's a fair assessment at all," he said of claims made by American officials that UK forces had failed.
"What has happened in the south, as throughout the rest of Iraq, was that primary responsibility for security would be handed to the Iraqis once the Iraqi authorities and the coalition were satisfied that their state of training and development was appropriate.
"In the south we had responsibility for four provinces. Three of these have been handed over in accordance with that strategy. It remains just in Basra for that to happen."
Even so it emerged yesterday that the Pentagon was planning to deploy extra forces to Basra to protect Iraq's crucial oil fields amid growing fears in Washington that Britain is preparing to withdraw its forces from southern Iraq.
Sir Mike says the failure of the US-led coalition to suppress the Iraqi insurgency four years after Saddam's overthrow was down to the Pentagon's refusal to deploy enough troops. A combined force of 400,000 would be needed to control a country the size of Iraq, but even with the extra troops recently deployed for the US military's "surge" the coalition has struggled to reach half that figure.
Sir Mike is particularly critical of President Bush's decision to hand control of the post-invasion running of Iraq to the Pentagon, when all the post-war planning had been done by the State Department.
"All the planning carried out by the State Department went to waste," he writes. For Mr Rumsfeld and his neo-conservative supporters "it was an ideological article of faith that the coalition forces would be accepted as a liberating army.
"Once you had decapitated Saddam Hussein's regime, a model democratic society would inevitably emerge."
He and other senior British officers were opposed to the Pentagon's decision to disband the Iraqi army after Saddam's overthrow, a decision he says "was very short-sighted â€¦ We should have kept the Iraqi security services in being and put them under the command of the coalition."
Sir Mike also reveals that he and other senior officers had doubts about the weapons of mass destruction dossier presented by the Blair government in late 2002.
"Its release caused a stir in military circles," reveals Sir Mike, particularly the suggestion that the UK could face a threat of attack at 45 minutes' notice. "We all knew that it was impossible for Iraq to threaten the UK mainland. Saddam's Scud missiles could barely have reached our bases on Cyprus, and certainly no more distant target."
Sir Mike says he satisfied himself on the legality of invading Iraq by careful study of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and concluded that action was "legitimate under international law without a 'second' resolution.
"Having had some part to play in putting Slobodan Milosevic into a cell in The Hague, I had no wish to be his next-door neighbour."
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