Iraq Inquiry: Eighth Day of Public Hearings with Pigott, Wilson and Asquith, 4th December 2009

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    4th December, 2009

    Iraq Inquiry: 8th day of public hearings with Pigott, Wilson & Asquith

    By Julie

    This post, like the 1st Day, the 2nd Day, the 3rd Day ,the 4th Day, the 5th Day, the 6th Day and the 7th Day comes with my grateful thanks to Julie here

    Also see Iraq Inquiry timetable of hearings, who and when

    These are the most significant quotes from the eighth session of the Iraq Inquiry

    You can read the full transcripts of the sessions here, here and here, and you can watch the videos here


    Subject: Military Planning

    4th December 2009: Morning session: Evidence by

    • Sir Anthony Pigott (British Army general)
    • Major General David Wilson


    Important exchanges

    PIGOTT: “You are talking about April 2002?”

    GILBERT: “Yes.”

    PIGOTT: “My focus, April 2002, was much more on Kabul and ISAF and the British having taken command in the Bonn conference in December of the previous year.”

    GILBERT: “Do you recall at the end of June your visit to Central Command?”

    PIGOTT: “Ah yes, quite different timeframe.”

    GILBERT: “What there was the thinking about Iraq?”

    PIGOTT: “As the scoping became clear and as political intent evolved on either just options or whatever and can share with you, I’m pretty sure it was options, options, options only.”

    FREEDMAN: “Can I take you then in to try to get through the substance of what was being proposed, developed, in your scoping exercise? I guess we are talking really to the period up to through July. As I understand it, by the end of July, the Americans had developed their own concept reasonably clearly. It wasn’t until then that they had fixed on the sort of size of force they might need or sort of operation they would have. So we are seeing how we fit in with this up to this point. Now, you have given some indication of the sort of three levels of support you could give the enablers, the support, the full combat role. You have given a sense that you almost thought it was unthinkable that the British would want to provide anything other than a full combat role. Is that fair?”

    PIGOTT: “No that’s not fair, nowhere near as far as that. We are talking about scoping discussions at senior working level, you know, looking at options. It cannot be translated into, “Well, this is just a procedure you are going down and at the end of the day we are going to go with that and it is a stitched up deal”.


    Important exchanges

    GILBERT: “When did this change? When did Iraq come within the argument?”

    WILSON: “It did change. It changed in the latter part of June of 2002.”

    GILBERT: “We would be very interested to know, General, how your American counterparts at Tampa viewed the various force packages that the United Kingdom was offering, the three options, and in particular package 2, which we understand was the one actually presented to the Americans for planning purposes.”

    WILSON: “With gratitude.”

    GILBERT: “With any discussion about the differences on the 2?”

    WILSON: “The discussion continued almost every hour of almost every day. It was understandably dynamic, iterative and endless.”

    GILBERT: “We know that Ministers here in Britain didn’t take a decision about the scale of British involvement until early 2003. Yet, as Lord Boyce told us yesterday, the American commanders assumed, from the outset, perhaps, that the United Kingdom would provide a whole division?

    What did you do to clarify our position on this, since it hadn’t yet been confirmed?

    WILSON: I don’t know whether I don’t know and I didn’t know then and I don’t know now whether General Tom Franks believed always that militarily the Brits would be there. I don’t know that. I never although I saw him every day because we were into central briefings every day, and of course he was away a lot I was never asked that question. I wasn’t asked that question by him. I wasn’t asked the question by his three star deputy and I wasn’t asked the question by my principal interlocutor, who was, if you like, what we call the J3, J and 3,’s operations.”

    FREEDMAN: “Obviously we will look into that. This is my final question. One of the things that we have heard is that the advantage of the British role was that it brought us some influence in the process, and one of the things where it was felt that we had particular expertise was in this sort of operation because of what we had done in Kosovo and Sierra Leone, even in Northern Ireland. You have indicated already that we sort of started to feed in some of these concerns, but you also said when an officer raised this, he didn’t get a very satisfactory answer. In this rather critical area, do you feel that the British were able to influence American thinking, and, if so, what evidence is there of it?

    WILSON: What I know is that from very, very early on, the questions were asked and anxieties expressed not anxieties at that stage, but questions were asked, looking for reassurance that the aftermath, Phase 4, was receiving as much, if not more, planning effort and attention than the three phases that preceded it. That I certainly remember being with the Chief of the Defence Staff when he discussed it with General Franks. It was one of the very early things he said and this was a repeated thing, a repeated thing. Now, whether I can’t make a judgment on whether the door was locked, open or not but it wasn’t for lack of boots being applied to that door to get through.”


    7th day of public hearings

    Subject: The view from London and Baghdad 2004-2007

    4th December 2009: Afternoon session: Evidence by

    • Dominic Asquith (Director Iraq in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office,from 2003 until 2006;  UK ambassador to Iraq, 2007-present)


    “There were always, up until the time I left, they were always but this was true of all three communities, the Kurdish, the Sunni Arab and the Shia Arab. They were always afraid of a precipitate withdrawal of multinational forces, because the lack of capability of the Iraqi security forces to deal with the insurgency, the military threat, from the militias and from the terrorists, and from the Sunni Arab community, who felt throughout very sharply, from the beginning of 2006, an almost existential threat from Shia militias, the multinational force was their protector in whom they had more trust than the Iraqi security forces, particularly from the Iraqi police, so far as, the latter they saw as being heavily infiltrated, as indeed it was, by ex Shia militias. So there was a real concern that when multinational forces withdrew, it should be done in a context where Iraq didn’t descend into civil conflict or civil war.”

    (On coordination between London and Baghdad) “But in terms of coordination, yes, I think my sense was there was transparency, there was clarity in terms of what the objectives were, the priorities were, and in coordination between us in Whitehall and those on the ground in Baghdad and Basra in delivering it.”

    (On the surge) “Again, personally, I was sceptical that the surge would be effective and was unsure whether the real objective of agreeing the local ceasefires with some of the Sunni Arab areas’ tribal leaders was designed to minimise the casualties of US forces or was really designed to or was designed to build them into the political process, and my suspicions were that the first objective, of trying to reduce American casualties, completely understandable, was probably a more important one in the minds of the military planners, and I was sceptical that they would be successful in persuading, particularly the Sunni Arab tribal leaders, to be loyal to a Shialed government in Baghdad. So I was sceptical about the end objective, whether it was achievable. I think in retrospect I was wrong and I think the surge did produce what General Petraeus was seeking to achieve by it, not just to create the sort of breathing space for some politics to work, but that it did, more sustainably than I assumed, quieten those areas which were extremely violent.”

    Important exchanges

    FREEDMAN: “What about relations between the Foreign Office and the other departments with a key interest, in particular, in the Ministry of Defence, again in London? Was there a sense of all departments pulling together, that they had a similar sort of policy or were there different agendas for different ministries?”

    ASQUITH: “In terms of the practical cooperation with the Ministry of Defence specifically, from my time in London, the two years as Director of Iraq, it was very close and very good.”

    (On the Iraqi Prime Minister) LYNE: “His relationship with the British?”

    ASQUITH: “It was varied. At some points, it was very suspicious, at some points it was very warm. He greatly enjoyed and respected the company of our Prime Minister and the Ministers. He also very much wanted Britain to get much more engaged in Iraq, specifically on commercial and trade matters.”

    LYNE: “Was there also a tension in the British Government between those who argued that the priority should be on getting things right in Baghdad and from the centre and those who were saying that our prime role was to make a success of the southern region, where we had the lead responsibility within the coalition?”

    ASQUITH: “I didn’t feel that personally. I felt both were important but both, as it were it wasn’t an either/or.”


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    2 Responses to “Iraq Inquiry: Eighth Day of Public Hearings with Pigott, Wilson and Asquith, 4th December 2009”

    1. Iraq Inquiry: Ninth day of public hearings with Chaplin, Cross, Bowen, 7th December 2009 « Tony Blair Says:

      […] the 1st Day, the 2nd Day, the 3rd Day ,the 4th Day, the 5th Day, the 6th Day, the 7th Day and the 8th Day comes with my grateful thanks to Julie […]

    2. All PRO Iraq war summaries of the Iraq Inquiry « Julie's think tank Says:

      […] 8th Day : Piggott, Wilson & Asquith […]

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