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Minister of State for the Armed Forces and the Chief of the General Staff:
Press Conference at the Ministry of Defence, London - 28 March 2003

Minister of State for the Armed Forces and CGS


 

Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Adam Ingram:
Good afternoon, Ladies and Gentlemen. This is the first time that I have spoken to you in a press conference since military action against Iraq began last Wednesday. I would like to begin by offering my condolences to those families who have lost their loved ones in this campaign. These men demonstrated all of the qualities which we admire in our Armed Forces. They lost their lives doing their jobs and doing it well, in the service of their country and for the greater security of the world. They are a credit to the nation, to their families and to their comrades whom they leave behind in battle.

However, it doesn't do to dwell or fixate on the details that near real-time media provides in these tragic circumstances. Such matters need to be dealt with in a sensitive way. There is a time for analysis and comment, but there must also be a time to allow families to grieve in peace, and I ask that they be now allowed to do so.

The Servicemen and women of our Armed Forces have brought great qualities and capabilities to the current conflict. That is reflected in the coverage given by the media and is a fitting tribute to our force's professionalism, flexibility and their commitment. We are fortunate indeed to be able to call on them at times of crisis.

Let us consider for a moment some of the activities that our Servicemen and women have been undertaking over the past week and a half. In a remarkably short time the coalition and the UK presence within it have accomplished an extraordinary amount. To borrow a phrase from one of our commanders in the field, they have truly demonstrated both ferocity in battle and magnanimity in victory. They are attributes which UK forces have shown time after time in conflict after conflict. Our troops are the finest in the world. They have the best training and they are supported by state of the art equipment. The Iraqis are simply no match for them. This force at the disposal of our military commanders is of course tempered by a precision that is unparalleled in the history of warfare, and a knowledge at all times of our obligations under international law. From Storm Shadow and Tomahawk missiles, to the new SA80A2 rifle, our Armed Forces have emphatically demonstrated a new kind of targeted campaign.

There have been civilian casualties and tragedies. That is inevitable. But in general what has been significant about the conflict so far is that it is the regime itself, and the brutal security forces that support it, which have borne the brunt of our attacks, and not the ordinary Iraqis whom we seek to liberate. We are committed to Iraq for the long term. The key to the future is the confidence its people have in what we seek to do in their name.

The flexibility of the force packages deployed by the UK has been clear throughout. At sea, our amphibious task group launched the initial assault on the al-Faw Peninsular, preventing any defeat of the disastrous oil spills that we saw in the gulf in 1991. Our mine counter-measures vessels have now cleared the channel through to the port of Umm Qasr, opening up a vital route for humanitarian supplies to reach the Iraqi people who have for so many years suffered deprivation. On land our mobile forces have secured the Ramaila oilfields, guaranteeing an economic future for the Iraqi people, where our heavy armour is a powerful presence outside the key city of Basrah. In the air, RAF planes have made an important contribution to the coalition's disruption of the Iraqi command and control system, flying over 500 missions; while the Joint Helicopter Command has provided crucial combat support throughout the operations.

Outside the fighting arena, our forces have been deploying expertise, derived from a range of operations in countries throughout the world in a crucial battle to win over the confidence of the Iraqi people. This is no easy task. The legacy of Saddam is powerful. Most Iraqis have never experienced freedom from his instruments of terror. We must convince them of our good intentions. The momentum of our crucial humanitarian operations is starting to increase, and I can confirm that the RFA Sir Galahad has docked at Umm Qasr, docked at the port within the last few hours, with a cargo of food, water, medicine and blankets. Further aid supplies from the US and Australia are en route to Iraq and are expected to arrive soon. Additionally the Royal Engineers are busy building a water pipeline across the border from Kuwait and trucks are starting to arrive from Kuwait, and this is only the beginning of our efforts.

As you are aware, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced yesterday a further £120 million for humanitarian assistance in Iraq, in addition to the £120 million previously announced. We have always said that we have no quarrel with the Iraqi people. We have always recognised that many of their Armed Forces are fighting under duress, threatened by the paramilitary thugs of Saddam's regime. Many of them have done the right thing and surrendered, and that is our message to those conscript forces, we look to them to work with us as partners in creating a new Iraq, free from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein.

We can be rightly proud of the British military and their courage and conduct both on and off the battlefield. Those qualities will prove to be of great benefit throughout current operations and in the early reconstruction of the new Iraq.

Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Mike Jackson:
Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to start by echoing the Minister's condolences to those soldiers, sailors and airmen who have lost their lives in the campaign. War fighting is a hard business and inevitably sometimes that final sacrifice has to be made to pursue the ends.

But whilst I have this audience here, again if I could echo the Minister. Could I ask you all to consider very carefully indeed the results, the effects, of what you write and what you show on the television screen on the families of those who have made that final sacrifice. This is not about propaganda or spin, it is about human decency to those who are in very difficult emotional circumstance and who have the right to grieve in their own way. So I would just ask you to put yourselves in the position of the wife, a husband, a mother, brother or sister, whatever it may, who is in this position and let us get on with informing our families, we have to be very careful to get it right, and I would ask you please, do not harass them in their grief.

Can I now move on to giving you my view of where we are, and I am not here to talk about the tactical details of the campaign. There is plenty, some might argue more than enough, input at that level. Command is quite rightly delegated to commanders in theatre, and I certainly have no wish to interfere with that. I know all our British commanders in the Army very well, they have my complete trust to do a very good job, their very best.

But perhaps it is useful to do a little bit of scene setting for you. There has been comment about a phrase used this morning I noticed in somebody's report was bogged down. Well I wouldn't actually describe it in that way. Let us see where we are.

Within south east Iraq, 3 Commando Brigade remain in control on the Al Faw peninsula, and as you heard from the Minister, are dealing amongst other things with the arrival of humanitarian aid. 7 Armoured Brigade continue to keep watch on Basrah, to start to change the circumstances there, to exploit wherever we can ways of unhinging the regime's control from the populous. There have been a number of quite successful, highly successful I would say, engagements around Basrah well reported, and 16 Air Assault Brigade continue to secure and control the Ramaila oil complex, denying it to the enemy, and allowing work and production there to recommence, and hopefully quite soon.

It is worth remembering that just two months ago there were only the lightest of skeleton forces, a few advance parties, in the Gulf region. Two months later and nine days of conflict, we now have over 40,000 of those 300,000 coalition personnel there, engaged in operations, with their equipment, with their logistic supplies, and it is a remarkable, in my view, achievement. The oilfields have been secured, the Al Faw peninsula as I have said. The Iraqi forces in the south are fixed - by that we mean that they are pinned down, their ability to manoeuvre is frankly very little indeed.

There have been strategically, very important, there have been no attacks on Israel, because we all are well aware of the complications which would ensue from that. We are conducting shaping operations south of Baghdad. We have paved the way for humanitarian aid to get into the country. All of this has been well covered in the media. But I would, if I may, pay tribute to very often those unsung heroes, the logisticians, who have made all of this possible. I find it is a staggering achievement, it is better even than what was achieved in the first Gulf War, and they have worked long and hard to get us to the position we are now in.

And perhaps my last point here as I reflect, at a strategic level, who has the initiative? I doubt - I doubt - that it is the regime in Baghdad.

May I also touch on the question of time span. It is inevitable that there is a demand for rapid results, but we must be very careful that what is hoped, and we are all perfectly entitled to hope things, does not come some sort of prediction. Those two things are quite different, and I am certainly not going to stand here and predict the duration of the conflict. War is a dynamic business, it is not a fixed plan. Plans vary, there is an opponent who is trying to ruin your plans from the word go. It is a dynamic situation. And there can of course be a third opponent, of which we have seen quite a bit recently, and that is poor weather. But I can just repeat here what both the President of the United States and our own Prime Minister said yesterday, that it will take as long as it takes to achieve the objectives.

Can I also just touch on the logistic aspect in this sense as well, that Armies cannot move forever without stopping from time to time to regroup, to ensure that their supplies are up, and even, believe it or not, soldiers need a bit of sleep from time to time. So this bogged down is a tendentious phrase, it is a pause whilst people get themselves sorted out for what comes next.

Could I also just say, spectacular, fascinating, riveting as many of the images on the television are, they are no more than snapshots at a particular time and a particular place. There have been yet, dramatic they may be, but frankly they tell you very little, if anything at all, about the progress of the campaign at a strategic level. And I would just ask that those two things are seen as separate, because they most certainly are.

And finally if I may, just a word or two about the obvious conundrum which the civil population pose and which irregular forces pose. We have not yet seen open displays, well there have been a few but they are more in small groups than en masse, of welcoming population in the streets of wherever. I think it is important to understand that this is hardly surprising. The Minister reflected on the nature of the regime against which we are fighting. The vast majority of the Iraqi people have experienced nothing but fear for so long, and they are still afraid. It has been interesting to look at some of the people coming out of Basrah, amongst other places, who are quite clearly terrified of what they have left. And inevitably they are pretty wary of us I suspect as well. We are strange creatures from another part. This will take time. This is a very considerable hearts and minds challenge, but it is part of the campaign, without a shadow of doubt. We need to earn the trust of the Iraqi people. This has got to be addressed at all levels by making clear that we are not in the business of gratuitous violence for its own sake, that we have their interests and their future in mind.

All I would finish up by saying on this subject, but also as a generalisation, is that I know of nobody better placed to take on this challenge of hearts and minds than the soldiers of the British Army. We are hugely experienced in doing this. We have I think an innate understanding that you have got to look at situations through other people's eyes and through other cultures' eyes. We have the experience from many a place across the world, as you know only too well, and it has been applied to the very best of our ability.

Question:
Can I assure you that no-one would dream of harassing grieving families, but in those circumstances I must ask you this question. Yesterday the Prime Minister described the execution of two British Servicemen, today we are told there is no conclusive evidence as to their fate, indeed senior officers have told the family that they died instantly in an ambush. In those circumstances do you regret the hurt and distress caused to those families?

Mr Ingram:
Well if hurt has been caused then clearly we have to regret this. It is why I said in my opening statement about the sensitive nature of all of these matters, whether it is as a result of friendly fire incidents or whether it is the result of loss through conflict, and General Jackson said the very same thing from an even more immediate knowledge and experience. So I think we have got to put in that context, and what the Prime Minister also said yesterday was placed in the context of what we know about the depravity of Saddam Hussein's regime, the way in which he treats his own people, his own soldiers, and we have witnessed even that over the last few hours or so when they have been shooting at people walking out of Basrah, assuming those reports are accurate. Now in the scale of all of that, and given the information available to us, it did indicate that those two soldiers may have been executed. So if they are hurt from the language used, then we regret that clearly, that was never the intention, but it was to point up, as I say, the ... of our knowledge about the depravity and the brutality of that regime.

Question:
Mr Ingram, you said just now the Iraqis are no match for British troops, and yet we are continuing to see dogged resistance ruining your plan, as the General has just called it. And politically we are today seeing more political and diplomatic opposition at the United Nations from the Russians to this war and they are threatening to block further resolutions. Are there any circumstances in which the British government, can I ask you as a politician, the General as a military man, would accept a negotiated peace settlement?

Mr Ingram:
There can be no circumstances in terms of what we are seeking to achieve, and that is to totally disarm Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction. We are wholly convinced he has that capability. Given the fact he has the capability, as we move further into the conflict the intent is likely to be there, and we have seen some evidence of possible intent. So I can't envisage any circumstances when that particular conclusion would be reached. He has to be removed, his regime has to be removed, that is a commitment that we have given to the Iraqi people. Their future lies without him, not with any shape or form approximating to him.

Question:
But you are meeting this opposition, particularly from the Russians, at the Security Council?

Mr Ingram:
Of course there is an international debate still going on out there and there are still those who do not think that Resolution 1441 meant what it meant in the way in which we are now delivering on it, and indeed perhaps other resolutions as well. In terms of the current conversations that are going on, and discussions and negotiations are going on, seeking a new UN resolution for the movement of humanitarian aid into the country and the administration of all of that, well let that develop, that has not come to the end of the road there. I don't know whether you want General Jackson to mention anything about the first half of the question.

General Jackson:
No, it is not my place to do that. The Army is the servant of the government and we will do what the government requires us to do. Can I just pick up on something. I don't want to be misunderstood. You said something about changing plans.

Question:
You used the phrase ruining your plan.

General Jackson:
Attempting to ruin your plan. You know, I know what you are trying to get me to say, that the campaign plan has changed. It hasn't, it absolutely has not, but the enemy will try to interfere with that plan. And at the tactical level, if you don't adjust your plans according to the local situation you are not doing your job. I hope we are clear about this. Anyway that statement is I hope now very ....

Mr Ingram:
He is not nodding, but I think everyone else is nodding.

Question:
... logistics, momentum and Basrah, you have talked about the logistic chain and it does look rather elaborate, and you say the heroic performance of 102 Brigade. What do we have if this does go on? You haven't set a time line on when the thing is finished, which is understandable, but do we (a) have enough logistics in the future, and do we have enough force protection for our logistical chain, about which there has been a lot of comment in the press. And the question of momentum in the campaign at the moment, particularly with regard to Basra where we do understand that it is a fairly open city and Saddam has been reinforcing at will and people are coming and going and it is not quite sure who they are.

General Jackson:
First of all, logistic support. I think your question was in a British context at that point Robert. There are no difficulties that I am aware of here at all, and I actually asked the question this morning and was given a reply which left me encouraged. We are fortunate of course of having short lines of communication in south east Iraq. The logistic challenge which the American V Corps is having to deal with is a big challenge and they are making it work. Yes, they are having to deal with irregular activity on some points on that line of communication, but it works, as we are seeing. On your second point, I think I have covered the force protection point. It behoves any army to keep its rear areas secure. An enemy will attempt to stop you doing that, and that is why you are seeing fire fights, particularly on the American line of communication, but it remains open.

Question:
The most senior American ground forces commander, Lt General William Wallace, the Commander of V Corps, did say that the enemy has not been behaving according to the war games that we have been engaged in before the war started. Do you agree with that? Does that imply that maybe there have been some surprises which had not been predicted?

General Jackson:
I can't speak for the V Corps Commander. What I can say is that the resistance we are seeing by Iraqi, mainly irregulars, the conventional fight if you like with the Republican Guard is not too far away I suspect, but on the irregulars, these are supporters of the regime who have, it seems to me, nowhere else to go, their futures are pretty limited. If they do not fight us the outcome is going to be clear, because we shall prevail, and if they do fight us it is a bit of a last gasp but the outcome will remain the same. They have my sympathy, these people, they have nowhere else to go, and I am afraid they are dying in quite large numbers.

Question:
General, can I pick up on that. Military commanders in the field I think have said that they have been surprised by Iraqi resistance and tactics too. Would you say that that is in any way a reflection of poor intelligence or wishful thinking.

General Jackson:
Well if they have said that, they have said that.

Question:
Would you put that down to faulty intelligence or misplaced intelligence?

General Jackson:
I am not sure I would put it down to either of those. You are asking me to give you a reason for something on which I can surmise with anybody else, and I am not going to surmise, I don't know.

Question:
Could I just pick up on John's question at the beginning, it is just that we are not trying to harass families who are bereaved, but given that it appears the families were upset by what the Prime Minister said, has any apology been made to them and do you accept that mistakes have been made? And General Jackson, you said you believe the Iraqi troops are dying in large numbers, do you have any estimates on figures on that?

Mr Ingram:
I think in my earlier answer I gave, I don't think there are any more words I can put to that. We will have to deal with any pain that is around there, we will have to deal with that through our welfare support, and let us do it, don't let us do it through newspaper or television headlines. Families are grieving, let them grieve and let's handle it as best as we possibly can.

General Jackson:
Can I just hear, hear, what the Minister has just said. We do have evidence of bereaved families being doorstepped in a pretty unpleasant way and it is ghoulish activity. On your second point, I don't think anybody really knows, but you have seen the reports and I would much rather they turn their weapons in and surrender, but at the moment they are not prepared to do that. But it is certainly in the hundreds and it could be more.

Question:
What does large numbers mean - hundreds, thousands? Just approximately.

General Jackson:
You are asking me something I don't know and I don't think anybody does because very often a fire fight takes place, people move on, and I don't suppose anybody is going around counting bodies, but it is certainly in the hundreds, without doubt.

Question:
Do you recognise reports that the American military are asking us to bring 4,000 reinforcements to the Gulf area? And do you also recognise a report from one military source who told us in the Gulf that we couldn't do that if we wanted to because of the fire strike?

Mr Ingram:
This idea that there are sources out there, there are enough embedded journalists talking to commanders in the field, talking to serving soldiers, I don't know where the sources are coming from. There is great transparency in everything that has been said and been done. Give us a source and let's see if it stacks up to the other people who are given the best advice in the field through the appropriate channels. Who is this source?

Question:
I can tell you it is a very good source, I know his name.

Mr Ingram:
Of course you are going to say it is a very good source, you are never going to say it is a source that you don't rely on.

Question:
I am not going to shop my source, but would you like to answer the suggestion?

Mr Ingram:
Geoff Hoon made it clear yesterday that we have no plans to do so. At all times beneath the Ministerial level examination will be taking place, they will have to look at all of the factors that they are currently facing, is there a need to do something more. If the answer to that is yes, then they will advise Ministers and then decisions would be taken on the back of all of that. It is certainly not on my desk at this point in time.

Question:
We heard from Admiral Boyce before that the forces were stretched because of the fire strike, does that remain the case? Could you not actually send extra ones because of the fire strike and the number of forces who are still engaged with that?

Mr Ingram:
We have made it clear that the level of commitments are exceptionally high, there is no question at all about that, and all ... taking place in terms of dealing with the fire dispute is putting pressure on us. 19,000 personnel tied up is a very sizeable proportion of our available forces. So yes it is putting pressure on us, but we have to deal with all of those pressures in terms of where the immediacy and the immediate issues arise. So it would depend upon the nature of the advice and the strength of the advice if there is any change to what we are currently doing.

General Jackson:
I don't think there is much I can usefully add to what the Minister said. It is no secret that the British Armed Forces, and perhaps the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force will forgive me if I say the Army in particular are working very hard at the moment and we are on a surge basis, this amount of commitment is not sustainable over a long period of time. It is certainly sustainable until we get these jobs done.

Question:
I wonder if you could comment on the reports coming from senior commanders in the British Army in the field, that the POWs from Iraq have suggested that there are some al-Qu'eda operatives working with Saddam's troops?

Mr Ingram:
We have seen nothing to confirm that and I think we just have to wait and see how that stacks up. But if that is the case, well we know the nature of al Qaida, we know the way in which they will involve themselves in any type of international arena to maximise damage to the US, the UK and our allies, so we just have to wait and see if there is more evidence to that.

Question:
General, there have been reports that cluster bombs have been used, can you confirm if this is the case, if so how many and against what sort of targets?

General Jackson:
No I cannot.

Question:
Could I just follow up on the question about reinforcements if they were to be necessary. With General Wallace saying it is going to go on much longer than expected and troops on the ground there working very hard obviously, is it not the case that you are going to have to at some stage rotate new troops through, relieve them in some way, and do you not have these contingency plans already to rotate these troops through and are these troops not known to you, who you are going to use?

Mr Ingram:
I was in Germany on Wednesday meeting families who have got people serving in the Gulf, I met many of the families asking me that very same question. I couldn't give them a date on when their people will be coming back. But I say this to them, that the way in which we look at these issues, we are conscious of the need to replenish and recycle people through, and again I am sure all of that planning has been looked at. But in terms of playing the detail of that out, that then can lead people to conclusions about timescales, so why should there be visibility in all of that. We are not giving timescales, but we have to plan, as we did in advance of this conflict, in a prudent way to make sure we had the resources in the area and all that logistic supply chain beginning to bite in when it was required. So I can give you assurances that there is a lot of planning going on, and if those plans then need to be activated then it will be done in a way which I answered earlier, the best advice to Ministers making best decisions.

Question:
Without a northern front on the scale that was planned, and with the Iraqi irregulars and others resisting perhaps more fiercely than predicted, do you think the Americans have sufficient strength in Iraq?

General Jackson:
The northern front now has of course, and you will have seen it for yourselves, been opened in a modest way I accept right now, but I would expect to see developments there. The Americans have by our standards almost limitless military capability and further of that is on the way. I am not going to say yes or no to your question because it can't be judged in that way. There may be extraordinary events over the next few days, who knows. What I can say, and it is out there, because it has been announced, that particularly the United States are making sure that they have the combat power to prosecute this war to its successful end.

Question:
You are confident that they may bring in more forces.

General Jackson:
Well they have announced they are doing so.

Question:
But you are confident they will bring in sufficient forces, and do you regret that they didn't do this sooner?

General Jackson:
We are where we are. I am not going to express regret or otherwise on the matter, we are where we are.

Question:
Questions first to Sir Mike. On Thursday 20 March The Times printed extracts from a pre-conflict address by one of your colonels, an address which in its courage and humanity I thought worthy of Henry V before Agincourt. Do you plan to make available more widely the full text of this address?

General Jackson:
Colonel Tim Collins' address has been printed verbatim in several newspapers.

Question:
I only saw extracts, that is all. And second, two years ago the Ministry of Defence mounted a photo exhibition honouring the contribution made by ethnic minorities to the Armed Forces over the past 200 years, not least from what are now Pakistan and Bangladesh, while last December the US appointed as a second Deputy Commander of Middle East Forces Lt General John Abisaid, of Lebanese descent, who is fluent in Arabic. What is the highest ranking officer of Middle Eastern origin now serving with the British forces?

Mr Ingram:
I don't want to answer off the top of my head, but what I can tell you is that we have a lot of energy going into our recruiting within the ethnic communities of this country, we set ourselves very tough standards, we don't meet those targets, but I can tell you across the three Services we are doing well, not as well as we would like, but we are doing well and I think it is a question that is worth examining and I am sorry I can't give you a specific answer on that.

Question:
Minister, could you please confirm what percentage of the trained strength of the Armed Forces is now currently committed to whatever operation or another?

Mr Ingram:
Overall in terms of the three Services, in terms of Op Telic, in terms of what we are doing in the Gulf it is about a quarter. Overall I couldn't give you a figure again off the top of my head, but this is a detail we can provide you with, because it is better to give you a precise figure than to guess 59% and it could be 58 or 61%.

Question:
We are talking over 50%, yes?

Mr Ingram:
In terms of the Army, yes.

General Jackson:
Overall, yes. For the Army it is over 50%.

Question:
How many Iraqis have surrendered up till now and how does that square with your hopes at this stage?

General Jackson:
I think it is around 4,000, something of that order, to United Kingdom forces, I don't have a figure in my head for US forces, I think it is around 4,000 but I could stand to be corrected on that, but it is of that order.

Question:
Inaudible.

General Jackson:
We are making arrangements for well over 10,000 to be housed if need be.

Question:
We have seen the effect so far of sand storms, rain, that aspect of the weather. How concerned are you at getting into more continuing sand storms, and after that into very hot weather?

General Jackson:
I mentioned the weather when I was giving you some opening remarks. In that part of the world the transition between "winter" and "summer" is very fast, but you do get these extraordinary conditions of very high winds and therefore sand storms. I understand that the last one was the worst storm for a generation, but there we are. It goes on for a little longer and then it settles down, and of course you are right, the heat comes on. But the heat is not a denial to operations, it makes it more difficult of course, for everybody.

Question:
General Jackson, you said that it is no secret that our Army is working very hard and that it was not sustainable for a long period. How long is that period? At which point do you actually have to start thinking about rotating troops round if this campaign goes on?

General Jackson:
I am not prepared to go into detail there because I think we are getting into operational areas. The point I am making is that the Army is working very hard. The Minister has already explained that we have contingency plans for this, that and everything else, that is our job, and we watch it.

Question:
Given that there is this perception amongst some, however tendentious, that the coalition campaign is getting bogged down, I was wondering how much of that perception you believe is down to modern media techniques of having 24 hour news proliferating everywhere and having these embedded reporters and things like that?

General Jackson:
I think I have touched on the tactical snapshot which gets converted into a strategic deduction, and there is a complete mis-match there. We live in a media world, here you all are, your technology gets better and better almost every month, it is something which is there. It is not for me in any way to deny a democratic republic - sorry, democratic public, or republic as the case may be - what is going on with their own Armed Forces. I leave it to you actually to deduce whether or not, in today's instant media, you are looking for too much, too soon, to fill the time - 24 hours - and you are making snap deductions which don't actually bear up under more careful consideration. But that is for you to decide, not me.

Mr Ingram:
The technology may be getting better, but the questions don't change.

Question:
General, after the arrival of Sir Galahad and the aid she is carrying, given the security situation in the south, to what extent are you and your forces going to be able to distribute it and how soon do you think it will be safe to allow civilians and humanitarian organisations to get involved?

General Jackson:
I think again you are getting into the tactical detail. You are far better off asking somebody who is there. These are the decisions for local commanders, not for me.

Question:
But presumably the main priority for you in London is to see that aid goes out as quickly as you can.

General Jackson:
It is one of the things we are doing.

Mr Ingram:
And the Sir Galahad is being unloaded as we speak, and distribution plans will be put in place and all of that will begin to role out, that is one of our commitments. But if there are security risks, then we have to take them into account. That was why Sir Galahad was so late getting into port because of the demining activity that had to go on to make sure that the ship and any subsequent vessels that went through that channel were secure. So the same applies on the land as well.

Question:
I just want to ask you about contingency plans again. Do you have contingency plans for reinforcements.

General Jackson:
Inaudible.

Question:
You haven't, you have talked about contingency plans for ..

General Jackson:
... I wish to cover it.

Question:
So can we assume from that that you do have them for reinforcements?

Mr Ingram:
I gave the answer by saying that the system would not be delivering well if it didn't look at every possible eventuality, but it is usually much lower down, there is nothing surfaced, so in that sense if you are trying to say there are contingency plans that are now being played out, that is not the case.

Question:
General Jackson, you say the snapshot we see on our TV screens does not reflect the strategic campaign. Can you say whether the strategic campaign is going better or worse than what we see on the TV?

General Jackson:
I think I made that very clear in my opening remarks that what has been achieved in the time frame we have been talking about is pretty impressive in my view.

Question:
General Jackson, I know you don't like snapshots ...

General Jackson:
I didn't say I didn't like them, I said get it into perspective.

Question:
... 24 hour reporting is a series of snapshots.

General Jackson:
No I didn't say that either. You are putting words in my mouth.

Question:
I will ask the question more directly. Would you take time now, from your perception, to tell us what you think is happening in and around Basrah?

General Jackson:
I can certainly do that, and I reflected a bit I think on this when I was making my opening remarks. Here we have the second city of Iraq, a million and a half people. The evidence is that they are being kept under a very, very tight rein by the organs of Saddam Hussein's regime, and there are a number of various so-called organisations who are responsible for this. The historical evidence certainly is that they have no wish to remain under Saddam Hussein's regime. The dilemma for the commanders there, and it is writ large, it is not peculiar to Basrah but Basrah is the particular and obvious current example, is the degree to which you prosecute the war against your enemies, which are not the Iraqi people, but the structure of the regime, the extent to which you prosecute that war, bearing in mind your wish not to harm Iraqi civilians any more than is absolutely necessary in the prosecution of any war. That is a dilemma, is it not, and it calls for careful judgments, some clever tactics, and we will see how Basrah proceeds. It won't remain as it is forever, that is for sure. Does that help?

Question:
... What is your perception currently of the state of manoeuvre and posture of the Republican Guard, and particularly in the south where British troops are coming against Iraqi forces?

General Jackson:
You are getting me into operational areas, Robert, which I think I had better be careful about.

Question:
Inaudible.

General Jackson:
Elements, small elements, I wouldn't go any further than that. But I don't want to be drawn on where we think this or that Iraqi formation is.

Question:
General, this might be operational too, I don't know. But I was wondering whether you feel as good one week into this war as you did one week into the war in Kosovo, in which you were even more intimately involved on the ground, and I wondered what the similarities were?

General Jackson:
There are some, but I wouldn't want to push it too hard, because the political circumstances are very different. But on 21 June 1999, as I recall, I think that was the day we took the undertaking to demilitarise from the KLA, which was significant, but there were many parts of Kosovo which were still pretty violent, indeed the Serb Army had not completed its withdrawal on D plus 9, it was the 11th day. So we had a very volatile situation, one which equally well snapshots might have brought you to an erroneous strategic conclusion. I think that is as far as I would want to push that parallel.

 





Source: UK MoD

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