Tim Shipman - Daily Mail September 29, 2010
Britain’s withdrawal from Basra was a ‘defeat’ which left the city ‘terrorised’ by militias, according to a damning verdict by British and American generals.
Military chiefs involved in the pullout to an airbase outside Iraq’s second city in 2007 said Gordon Brown’s government made a ‘political’ decision which put the Armed Forces in an impossible position.
In a new documentary on the Iraq war, Lieutenant General Sir Rob Fry – one of the most senior UK officers to serve in Iraq – said: ‘The Americans decided to win. We decided to leave.’
The British drawdown came as the U.S. government was carrying out a ‘surge’ to boost troop numbers and crush Al Qaeda. Within months, Iraqi and American troops were forced to launch raids into Basra to crush the Islamist militias who had been given the run of the city.
Retired U.S. General Jack Keane, one of the architects of the surge, told the BBC documentary Secret Iraq: ‘I think it was a huge mistake to pull out of Basra and to leave the people of Basra to be subjected to the Iranian surrogates who brutalised them, intimidated them, terrorised them.’
Colonel Peter Mansoor, a senior aide to top U.S. General David Petraeus, then commander of coalition forces in Iraq, added: ‘I don’t know that you could see the British withdrawal from Basra in 2007 in any light other than a defeat.’
And British Major General Jonathan Shaw, who commanded coalition forces in southern Iraq from January to August 2007, said: ‘I think the biggest problem was the political problem.’
He also undermined Mr Brown’s suggestion at the time that the withdrawal was a pre-planned military manoeuvre.