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"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

US surge is failing, says UK's Iraq envoy

US surge is failing, says UK's Iraq envoy

By Colin Freeman, Chief Foreign Correspondent, and Philip Sherwell in New York, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 11:29pm BST 19/05/2007

The "troop surge" by American soldiers in Iraq is not working, one of Britain's senior military officials in Baghdad has said.

In a pessimistic assessment of the strategy designed to pull Iraq back from all-out civil war, Alastair Campbell, the outgoing defence attaché at the British Embassy in Baghdad, claimed that extra US forces were not achieving the desired drop in violence.

Mr Campbell, whose remarks may cause embarrassment to Downing Street and anger in Washington, said that the casualty figures for April - in which 1,500 civilians are believed to have been killed - provided no "encouraging" evidence.
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Speaking on the record last week to a public audience at Chatham House, the London-based foreign-policy research institute, he said: "The evidence does not suggest that the surge is actually working, if reduction in casualties is a criterion. The figures in April were not encouraging."

In unusually candid comments, Mr Campbell also disclosed that American commanders had decided that the criteria for the "success" of the troop surge would be nothing more than a reduction in violence to the level prior to last year's al-Qaeda bombing of the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra, which destroyed its golden dome.

The destruction of the shrine, one of the most important Shia sites in the world, led to a dramatic escalation in sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia factions, peaking at 3,500 deaths in September last year. Casualty figures had been running at 800 a month before that, a level that few would regard as anything approaching peace.

While the United States military has made little secret of its view that the bloodshed in Iraq can now only be contained, rather than stamped out altogether, the suggestion that 800 murders a month in the country would be a measure of success is an indication of how far the coalition has been forced to reign in its expectations.

Mr Campbell, who holds the rank of colonel, left Baghdad in February and is about to retire. His remarks that the troop surge seems not to have succeeded may also be a premature judgment.

American generals have insisted that the success - or otherwise - of the surge cannot legitimately be assessed until September, when Gen David Petraeus will present a six-month review of the year-long operation to the US Congress. Gen Petraeus, the commander of coalition forces, has said that even by then, there may be no "definitive" conclusions, as many of the 20,000 soldiers involved in the surge will not arrive until next month.

Jack Keane, a retired US general and one of the co-authors of the "surge" blueprint, rejected claims that the tactic was failing, citing a marked drop in sectarian violence since the extra troops began arriving in January. "From a security perspective, the surge is making steady progress," he told The Sunday Telegraph. "The major indicator is the reduction in sectarian violence. We will get the full effect after the last brigade arrives in June."

The casualty count for April of 1,506 civilian deaths, from Iraqi government figures, was 20 per cent down from March, when 1,861 civilians were killed. The figure for February was 1,645.

Dan Goure, a Pentagon adviser, confirmed that the use of the Samarra benchmark was common among military commanders. "If we get back to pre-Samarra levels, then that's a significant reduction in violence, especially sectarian violence, and will provide the momentum for further improvements."

The Ministry of Defence said Mr Campbell was speaking only in a personal capacity. "We are in agreement with the Americans, that it is too early to give an estimate of the impact of the troop surge yet," said a spokesman.

Tony Blair made his farewell visit to Iraq yesterday as Prime Minister, his seventh trip since toppling Saddam Hussein four years ago.

He met with Iraqi leaders in the capital's US-guarded Green Zone, and then headed to Basra to spend time with British troops. At both locations insurgents fired mortars designed to disrupt the visit.

Accompanying him was Martin Amis, the novelist who is writing about Mr Blair's final days in office. Downing Street declined to say whether Mr Amis's work was of a biographical nature.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;jsessionid=ILNPKMIPH2SV1QFIQMGSFFWAVCBQWIV0?xml=/news/2007/05/20/wirq120.xml

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