Asked if the Prime Minister agreed with the assessment of the Chief of General Staff that we can expect a "generation of conflict", the Prime Minister’s Spokesman (PMS) replied that David Miliband had answered this point clearly on the radio this morning. When it came to dealing with terrorism in particular, this was clearly a long term issue that we had to face.
Put that David Miliband had also made clear that Britain’s decisions on Iraq regarding troop pullouts would be made independent of the US, and that the situation on the ground in Basra would dictate what would happen to British troops, not the situation in Baghdad, and asked if this position had the full support of the Prime Minister, the PMS replied that David Miliband was also saying that our position on Iraq had not changed. We would operate in close consultation with our allies, but we would have to take decisions based on the situation on the ground, and clearly the situation in Basra was different to the situation in other parts of Iraq. This had been our long standing position.
Asked if it could work both ways, so if the situation was fine on the ground we could leave before the Americans, but could it work the other way if the Americans started scaling down and we were to stay on, the PMS replied that all of these were hypothetical questions. The key point, which the Prime Minister emphasised in his letter yesterday, was that we would take decisions based on military advice, and that military advice would relate to the capacity of the Iraqi security forces to take over responsibility for security in the Basra area.
Asked if the presence of US troops would feed into the military assessment of the situation on the ground, the PMS replied that these were all issue that the military would have to look at. But this was not something for politicians to be intervening on. This was advice that had to be formulated by the military on the ground based on their assessment of what was happening in Southern Iraq.
Asked if it had been formally acknowledged that we would be leaving Basra Palace soon, the PMS replied that clearly decisions would have to be taken, but these would be taken on the basis of military advice. Once advice had been received and decisions taken, then we would make an announcement.
Asked if we would still pull back if that meant American troops going in to replace our troops, the PMS replied that this was entering the realms of the hypothetical. We would not be getting into the business of second guessing what may or may not happen.
Asked how military advice translated into something concrete that led to a political decision, the PMS replied that the Ministry of Defence could give chapter and verse on the exact process by which all of this happens. But clearly there would need to be some considered advice put together by senior commanders.
Asked when the Prime Minister’s last discussion with President Bush was on Iraq, the PMS replied that it would have been at Camp David. Asked if there had been any telephone calls since, the PMS replied that there had been none to his knowledge.
Asked if there had been any result from the review into the Iraqi interpreters, the PMS replied that it was his understanding that this was still under consideration.
Briefing took place at 11:00 | Search for related news
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