Asked if he could help characterise the announcement made today by Geoff Hoon and whether it should be seen in the context of improving security before the handover of sovereignty the PMOS stated for the purposes of clarity that today’s announcement was the result of recommendations made from British commanders in the field in our particular area, about the needs in our particular area. That should be distinguished from the consultation in progress with our coalition partners about the overall strategic position as we move towards 30 June and Iraqi-isation of the position. Those strategic discussions were continuing and should not be confused with today’s announcement. Today’s announcement was the result of an assessment on the ground of our needs, particularly in the run up to 30 June where increased attempts by terrorists and others to inflict casualties on the coalition forces were expected. This was because they wanted to disrupt the handover to a sovereign Iraqi Government. There had always been this expectation and today’s announcement should be seen in that light.
Asked if this meant that no further troops would be deployed till after 30 June the PMOS said that the reality was that because of the lead times of such decisions it was always going to take longer. Therefore he would make the distinction here between short term and medium term decisions. The precise time scales involved would only become apparent if and when a decision was made and that point had not yet been reached. In response to further questioning he said that any decision would be taken because of assessments of the need and the strategic view of what happened in Iraq and for no other reasons. In terms of public opinion the Prime Minister had firmly stated that it was his view that we must stay in Iraq till the job was done and what we were trying to do was to get Iraq to a position where it could take responsibility for its own security. Any strategic decision would be taken in light of that.
Asked if this meant in light of today’s operational decision that any further decisions would be political ones the PMOS responded that that was too simplistic a characterisation. Any judgement was made on the basis of a military assessment on the ground and the assessment of what is necessary to deliver the overall goals of the coalition in Iraq. That was what would shape any future strategic announcements.
Briefing took place at 15:45 | Search for related news
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