21 October 2004

U.K.'s Black Watch & Scots Guards to 'Bail Out' U.S. Force in Iraq

When you absolutely have to get it done and sorted, call in the experts...


Hoon to Announce Iraq Troop Move

Hoon to announce Iraq troop move
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon is expected to announce shortly that the UK will agree to a US request for the redeployment of British troops in Iraq.

He is due to make a statement to the House of Commons at 1315 BST.

But there is so far no word on the timescale for the troop move, nor which units will be involved.

Previous reports suggested about 650 soldiers from the Black Watch regiment would move from their base in southern Iraq to near the capital Baghdad.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's spokesman said the Cabinet had given its support to the move, in part to help secure looming Iraqi elections.

"There was unanimous support from the Cabinet for the troops and their commanders on the ground and respect for their judgments," he said.

"And [there was] a determination that the Government should do all it can to help in the process of bringing about free elections in January, to help finish the job we started out to do."

Redeploying UK soldiers to an area south-west of the Iraqi capital would free US troops for an anticipated assault on insurgent-held Falluja.

Mr Blair has promised that if Black Watch troops are sent north, they will be home by Christmas as planned.

A British reconnaissance team has visited the area they would be deployed to, and handed its assessment to military chiefs.

The Chief of the Defence Staff, Sir Michael Walker, was due to make a recommendation to ministers on whether to agree to the move, based on the reconnaissance team's report.

Opposition to the proposals has grown, with 63 MPs signing a motion which calls for a Commons vote on any possible movement of British troops. Mr Blair has resisted such a move.

'More troops'

Britain's senior officer in Iraq, General John McColl, has indicated that more British troops could be sent to Iraq as elections, planned for January, draw nearer.

"There may be a request to surge additional forces into Iraq in the run-up to the elections - that has been discussed," he told The Times newspaper.

"But it is no more than prudent planning at this stage."

General McColl did not give an exact figure on the possible deployment, but it is believed as many as 1,300 extra troops could be called on, taking the number of British personnel serving in Iraq to almost 9,000.

The Ministry of Defence declined to be drawn on the suggestion.

A spokesman said: "The military advice is still being considered and the decision-making process is still ongoing."

General McColl, who has just finished a six-month stint as second-in-command of coalition forces, earlier told the BBC that, while it would be possible to refuse the US request for redeployment, it would not be "militarily sensible" to do so.

"The request is in response to the situation on the ground. It is reasonable and responsible to meet that request."

He said the redeployment would last "weeks, not months".

9,200 troops deployed to the Gulf, almost 7,500 in Iraq
1,400 of those are reservists
Most troops in Basra and al Muthanna provinces
1 Mechanised Brigade is currently 'lead formation'
6,315 troops from 10 nations also serve in the area

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/10/21 11:20:58 GMT



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