LONDON (AFP) – The British backlash over the US handling of post-invasion Iraq grew Sunday as another military commander blasted Washington’s “fatally flawed” policy.
Major General Tim Cross, the top British officer involved in planning post-war Iraq, said he raised serious concerns with then US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld about the possibility of the country descending into chaos.
But Rumsfeld “ignored” or “dismissed” his warnings, the general told the Sunday Mirror newsapaper.
On Saturday, the head of the British Army during the 2003 invasion launched a fierce attack on the United States over its handling of troubled Iraq since.
General Sir Mike Jackson branded US post-invasion policy “intellectually bankrupt” and said Rumsfeld was “one of the most responsible for the current situation in Iraq.”
The comments from both top military officers come at an embarrassing time for the British government, which has tried to soothe reported tensions with the United States over Iraq by insisting it will not cut and run from the southern province of Basra.
General Jack Keane, a former vice-chief of staff of the US Army, said last month there was “frustration” in Washington at the deteriorating security situation in the British-run area — triggering an angry reaction from some quarters in the British military.
In 2003, Cross was the deputy head of the coalition’s Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance.
“Right from the very beginning we were all very concerned about the lack of detail that had gone into the post-war plan — and there is no doubt that Rumsfeld was at the heart of that process,” the 56-year-old said.
“I had lunch with Rumsfeld in Washington before the invasion in 2003 and raised concerns about the need to internationalise the reconstruction of Iraq and work closely with the United Nations.
“I also raised concerns over the numbers of troops available to maintain security and aid reconstruction.
“He didn’t want to hear that message. The US had already convinced themselves that Iraq would emerge reasonably quickly as a stable democracy.
“Anybody who tried to tell them anything that challenged that idea — they simply shut it out.
“Myself and others were suggesting things simply would not be as easy as that.
“But he ignored my comment. He dismissed it.
“There is no doubt with hindsight the US post-war plan was fatally flawed — and many of us sensed that at the time.”
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who took over from Tony Blair on June 27, had been expected by some commentators to take a step back on Iraq policy.
But he has resisted calls for a timetable for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.
The Pentagon announced this week that it is ready to intervene in southern Iraq to quell any unrest in Basra.
The Sunday Times newspaper, citing government department officials, said Britain was preparing to hand over control of Basra to the Iraqi army as early as next month, in a move which would spark renewed claims from Washington that Britain was preparing to cut and run from Iraq.
Around 5,500 British troops are training Iraqi security forces.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Defence Secretary Des Browne wrote a joint article in Friday’s Washington Post newspaper saying it was “time to set the record straight” after weeks of “misplaced criticism.”
“The question some people have asked is: have British forces failed in Basra? The answer is no,” they added.
“We believe we remain on track to complete the return of full sovereignty to the Iraqi people as planned. The United Kingdom is sticking to the mission we took on four years ago.”