Asked for the Prime Minister’s reaction to the 100th British casualty in Iraq, the Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman (PMOS) said that first and foremost the Prime Minister was deeply saddened by this death, as he had been by all the deaths of those members of the armed forces who had been killed in Iraq.
His thoughts, and those of the Government, were with the families and their loss. No life was worth this sacrifice, but in terms of why we were in Iraq, we had now had three democratic elections in a country which had been brutalised for decades. It was a tough struggle to make progress, particularly because there were those who were determined to stop democracy in Iraq, but the Prime Minister believed it was worth persevering with that struggle because we were making progress. We now had the various democratically elected groups in Iraq discussing how to form a new Government. That would not have been possible without the presence of British troops and the troops of our allies as well.
Asked how long our troops would remain in Iraq, the PMOS said that they would remain for as long as was necessary and as long as the democratically elected Government in Iraq wanted us to remain. As we had seen just before Christmas, when we were in Basra, there was a growing confidence in the process of Iraqization. We could see the growth of the quantity and quality of Iraqi personnel now able to look after Iraqi security in certain areas. That process would continue and it would be the speed of that process which would decide when our troops could be deemed no longer necessary.
Asked how he responded to those who said there should be a timetable for withdrawal in place, the PMOS said that the problem with a timetable was that it inverted what the priorities should be. The priority should be to ensure that the democratically elected Government of Iraq was in a position to defend that democracy. That should determine the speed at which we lower our profile, rather than an artificial deadline which would effectually say that no matter what the state of security in Iraq, we would pull out. That would only act as an incentive to the insurgents to step-up their campaign in tandem with any timetable.
Asked if we were not concerned by the tactical implications of this particular attack, given that it had taken place in an area which had previously been secure, the PMOS said that we should not do the terrorist’s job for them by over-hyping this kind of incident. We should recognise that any death was deeply sad and deeply regretted. However it would be for those making the operational decisions on the ground to decide how to respond to this kind of attack and prevent further attacks. It was not for us to second-guess the operational commanders on the ground.
Asked how these casualty figures compared to casualties in other conflicts, the PMOS referred journalists to the MOD. He stressed that one death was one death too many and therefore although comparisons might be useful in terms of analysis in some ways, for the families concerned it was obviously their loved one they had lost.
Briefing took place at 13:00 | Search for related news
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