In 2003 the U.K. had to completely change its war plans. Previously it was thinking of invading from Turkey but that had to be scrapped. The Americans suggested that the British deploy in southern Iraq instead. Prime Minister Tony Blair largely kept this from his cabinet which had done from the start. Finally, London ignored its responsibilities by not strategizing for how to administer Iraq after the war.
At the end of December 2002 the British were told to shift their focus from northern to southern Iraq during the invasion. On December 28, 2002 U.S. Central Command head General Tommy Franks told the British that its forces should operate in the south. On January 5, General Albert Whitley drew up a paper on how U.K. forces could be used there. He projected that they would be used for stabilization rather than heavy fighting. He didn’t include any predictions for what Iraq would be like. This was another example of faulty planning by London. Not discussing the expected environment British troops would face was a major mistake and another example of the faulty planning that had been going on from the start. Prime Minister Tony Blair went ahead and pledged a division and three combat brigades anyway on January 17.
Throughout the entire Iraq affair the prime minister kept his cabinet in the dark about his deliberations. On January 9 Blair met with his ministers and told them military options would be discussed but didn’t tell them about the planning that had been going on since the middle of 2002. In the end the cabinet was never included in the debate over going to war or how it would be conducted. The Chilcot Inquiry would heavily criticize Blair for doing this because it denied him different opinions. The fact that Blair was so committed to war however probably meant he wouldn’t change his mind.
From the start Blair was told that invading Iraq would mean the U.K. would have to be involved in post-conflict governance but again didn’t adequately prepare for that. Originally the chiefs of staff and officials told Blair the U.K. should not get involved in administering Iraq after Saddam. It therefore never really dealt with the issue. At the same time it found out that the U.S. didn’t have any plans either. Of course the switch from combat to postwar duties happened immediately as the Coalition occupied Iraqi territory. London had made no decisions on how long it would stay or whether it even had the capabilities to run a large section of Iraq. This fit the pattern that the Blair administration had followed from the start. Wishful thinking took the place of serious strategizing. The belief was that everything would work itself out. That didn’t happen and Iraq and the U.K. suffered the consequences.
The Iraq Inquiry, “The Report of the Iraq Inquiry,” 7/6/16
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