Sir Mike Jackson blames US for 'appalling' handling of Iraq war

GENERAL Sir Mike Jackson, the former head of the British Army, last night accused the Americans of "appalling" decision-making during the Iraq war.

Jackson, the former chief of the general staff, said the violence experienced in post-war Iraq was "much exacerbated by the security vacuum created by Washington's appalling decisions" to disband the Iraqi security forces.

Jackson, who was in charge of the British Army during the war, added that the US policy to "de-Ba'athify" Iraq doubled the time taken to reach the point where the coalition could consider a withdrawal from the country.

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The general also said that Iranian backing for Shi'ite militants, a development which led to hundreds of British casualties, further complicated the post-war environment.

The former defence chief, who said he believed the campaign had been successful, was also critical of the US and British governments for failing to "understand fully" the complexity of the situation in Iraq and to create a proper reconstruction plan.

The general said the euphoria which followed the toppling of Saddam was short-lived because factions inside Iraq began to use violence in pursuit of political objectives.

But he was not entirely critical of the coalition. He argued that it achieved "tremendous successes", including a referendum on a new Iraqi constitution and subsequent elections. It also achieved the creation of a new Iraqi security force and the avoidance of outright civil war.

In total, 136 British troops have died in Iraq and thousands more have been injured. Jackson said their deaths and wounds "were not in vain but rather suffered in the noble cause of a better future for Iraq and the region as a whole".

Meanwhile, Iraq's parliament yesterday rejected for a second time a draft law allowing foreign troops from countries other than the United States, including Britain, to remain after the end of the year.

The draft law, which was rejected in a voice vote, would allow all foreign troops other than Americans to stay in Iraq until the end of July.

It was also rejected earlier in the week and is expected to be brought for another vote after Christmas.

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• It emerged yesterday that the Pentagon could double the number of US soldiers in Afghanistan by next summer to 60,000 – the largest estimate of potential reinforcements ever publicly suggested.

The top US military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said between 20,000 and 30,000 additional US troops could be sent to Afghanistan to bolster the 31,000 already there.