Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Welcome to the grey zone

Dan Hardie wants to know what is happening in the area between the southernmost US troops in Iraq - around Najaf if memory serves - and the northernmost British, now that the withdrawal to Basra Air Station is complete. Call it the grey zone - the populous, Shia-dominated gap astride the main supply route to Kuwait. left after the first Shia rising of spring, 2004 intimidated most of the old MND(SC). He refers to a New York Times story describing the engagement of "US-led" forces in the Amarah-Majjar al-Kabir area, familiar to millions as the site of the RMP's last stand in 2003 and the long fight between Camilla's Killers and the Sadr movement in 2004-5.

I'm quite sure the BBC described the same action as "British and Iraqi forces", though. I suppose that, as they are all serving under a US higher command, any coalition forces are "US-led", but that is a pedantic point. When the British infantry battalions in Amarah and Dhi Qar provinces withdrew last autumn, followed by the Australians moving from Muthanna province to Tallil air base near Nasiriyah, two "overwatch" battle groups were formed, one for each area.

Their title and composition (primarily armour/cavalry) suggests that their mission was to provide a tactical reserve for the Iraqi government units in this areas. I am not exactly informed if they still exist, and if so what contact they have with the main body of troops outside Basra. But given that the reinforcements are gone, and the force is now down to a brigade plus extra logistics (as planned for mid-2003), I doubt it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dan asks a lot of questions on the whys and wherefors of this. However, he fails to consider the question of whether the reason for this is because the British forces may be suffering heavy casulaties and may be rapidly heading towards a position in which they can no longer cope with the role they have been given by the politicians.

We are used to thinking about "casualties" in terms of the number of dead (which could do with some up to date figures published, particularly the "possible" rate of increase in recent weeks). However, you may also find it useful to do a bit of digging around for stuff that does not make the headlines in the media - like for instance the number of non-fatal casualties (particularly in and around the centre of Basra).

It could be that the intensity, number and frequency of attacks on our squaddies is increasing and taking its toll. Hence the need to draw down support from US forces further north to stop us being overwhelmed.

Happy digging.

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