British General Discusses Realities of Iraq
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 19, 2007 Rebuilding Iraq is like playing “three-dimensional chess in a dark room,” but multinational forces will continue to move forward there, the senior British military representative in Iraq said today.
British army Lt. Gen. Graeme Lamb, deputy commander of Multinational Force Iraq, first went to Iraq in 1991. He’s currently serving his fourth term there and has developed an understanding of the country’s complexity, he told reporters in the Pentagon via satellite connection from Iraq.
“It’s hard pounding; this is as complex as I’ve ever seen anything I’ve done,” he said. “But ‘hard pounding’ is what Wellington said at Waterloo before he went on to win as part of a coalition,” Lamb said, referring to the Battle of Waterloo, in which Napoleon was defeated by a multinational coalition.
Infusing his briefing with historical references, Lamb, a self-described Scotsman with a sense of humor, said he sees steady increases of progress, hope and opportunity in Iraq upon each return.
“Don’t forget (the Iraqi government) has only been in power for some 240 days. It took (Americans) 11 years to write your constitution; we’re still trying to write ours,” Lamb quipped.
“I still believe we can do this, … and that’s just the way I see it,” he said. “I don’t do optimism; I don’t do pessimism; I just do realism.”
He said Iraqis are showing unprecedented commitment to reconstructing their country. “We are judged by our actions in this world,” Lamb said, “and I do see (Iraqis) taking the right actions.
“I see the Sunni community looking towards coming back into the political process,” he said. “I see this government, this prime minister, dealing with the militias.”
Lamb said additional U.S. troops sent as part of President Bush’s new strategy will aid reconstruction efforts.
“The president has committed forces,” Lamb said. “As a ground commander, you can’t ask for more. I see American soldiers, airmen, sailors, Marines and civilians, none of them shrinking from their duty.”
But, Lamb emphasized he sees “things still being difficult, very difficult.”
When asked if the roughly 6,200 British troops in Basra had been defeated by militias, Lamb said he shies away from “d-words” like “decisive” and “defeated” when discussing operations.
“(The British army’s 10th) Division is out there on Operation Sinbad right now, independent, operating and making a difference in the town,” Lamb said. “I don’t think we’re defeated in any sense.”
Militias are making some inroads in Basra, he said, but he added that such difficulties are not insurmountable.
He also discussed the progress of Iraqi security forces. Lamb told reporters he recently met with a battalion commander in Ramadi who reported “huge progress” in the town.
“In Ramadi four months ago, I don’t think there were any policemen in the town,” he said. “There are 791 now. They were shot at from a building, (then) 200 policemen were drawn together, surrounded the building, cleared it,” he said. “That’s just an example of some progress.”
Operations ahead this year will represent an active and aggressive transition, Lamb said.
“We mentor, we monitor, we train with … Iraqi forces to ensure that they’re capable,” he said.