Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Army fired 100,000 rounds last month in Iraq

D'you think they'll fire a special commemorative bullet for the 100,000th shot fired in a month in the British zone of Iraq? Like they used to with the 100,000th (or whatever) car to run off a production line? The BBC has an excellent story here which, among other things, points out that the British battalion in Amara (1st Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment - "Camilla's Killers")was involved in 853 contacts in the month. The British Army has not engaged in such sustained combat since the Korean War.

This doesn't suggest it will get any better. More broadly, the Government has been throwing off mixed signals about the future lines of policy in Iraq lately - last week, Geoff Hoon suggested that the number of British troops might be substantially reduced at the next relief, due in November. But, during the weekend, the Independent on Sunday reported, quoting Chief of the General Staff General Sir Mike Jackson, that a major British deployment to Afghanistan was in prospect for the beginning of 2005, probably involving the NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Corps HQ, a British infantry brigade and supports, plus other NATO contingents. A figure of 8,000 UK personnel was given. Jackson also suggested that this could be done without prejudice to the Iraq operation, as long as it was "a one off". "Sources" further said that some 1,000 troops might be sent out as a reinforcement to Iraq. This is an unremarkable claim, as the Army always maintains one battalion group (the Spearhead group) on high readiness to reinforce British units on operations overseas - if things were to go badly in southern Iraq, this force would be available.

At the same time, conflicting rumours have filtered out from the States. It is suggested either that a major offensive is being planned to retake Fallujah, Ramadi and other towns, involving a large reserve call-out timed to occur after the election (well..), or that perhaps the US Government is considering an early scuttle from Iraq. No-one seems as yet to have suggested both, so I might as well start this hare running myself. Expect the US to announce a large mobilisation immediately post-election in the event of a Bush win, to invade Fallujah, Sadr City, and Ramadi en masse to Finish the Job, and then to withdraw all forces by spring. (For International Relations/Strategic Studies/History geeks - they might even call it DUCK HOOK II.)

There is absolutely no reason to believe this, but the fact it sounds about as likely as all the other options they really are suggesting tells us what we need to know. They literally don't know what to do.

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