This doesn’t dishonor Brit troops, but confirms the gross incompetence of their leaders.
With flags flying and heads held high, the last of the British soldiers based in Basra city left their barracks yesterday in a column of armoured vehicles.
The men of 4Bn The Rifles said they had “fought hard” and had left the city a better place. The operation to remove the last 550 troops from Basra Palace ended after 12 hours as the exhausted troops entered their new garrison at Basra air station.
They had been at Saddam Hussein’s former headquarters in Basra since the 2003 invasion and experienced months of daily mortar and rocket bombardments. However, last week’s ceasefire by insurgents meant they could lower their regimental flag wearing fatigues rather than customary flak jackets…
Sheikh Hazim al-Badhadi, a leader of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army in Basra, claimed credit for driving out the occupying forces. “They ran away from us because we killed so many of them. They were tired. All they could do was flee for their dignity.”
That “ceasefire” was probably bought at a high price – the release of killers – using the technique Blair in pioneered in Northern Ireland.
But the problem hasn’t gone away – these soldiers are now at Basra Air Station, which is itself under siege
Here’s how Brit pols, generals, and Defense Ministry could have avoided this disgrace, and can stop it happening again.
1. 24*7 Air Surveillance.
This allows you to observe the enemy setting up rockets or mortars.
The Israelis use UAVs, making “experienced Palestinian Kassam rocketeer” is as rare as “experienced Kamikaze pilot”. Israel is happy to sell the UK its splendid UAVs, but instead of buying a few hundred, the Brits just bought the design and is spending 5 years building their own version. They’re still working on it.
This is just NIH, and needs one decent manager to fix it.
2. Counter Battery Artillery
These use radar to track incoming mortars, apply simple math to locate the launcher, and then destroy it with automatically aimed indirect counter-fire (or a UAV-launched weapon). It takes a couple of seconds.
3. 24*7 Aggressive Air Cover
This is for when the enemy gets good at remote launching.
Again, an Israeli specialty. Depending on the ground environment, this can be attack helicopters or fast moving jets. You keep them in the air all the time, so they can destroy targets as soon as they appear.
In Afghanistan, the thunder of an orbiting B1-B causes the Taliban to head for the hills. It’s expensive, but it works!
4. Force Protection Weapons
These destroy incoming mortar and rocket rounds in flight. They’re the last ditch, since it’s much better to kill the launch crews. I think the Brits just installed one or more of these at Basra Air Station, better late than never. But they’re not 100% effective – they can be swamped with barrages – so you need all the other layers.
5. Mine Protected Vehicles
No matter how well protected your base is, you have to carry the war to the enemy and kill his commanders, planners, and logisticians.
That means going where they live. But without modern armor, that’s hard, since the enemy knows exactly where you are and can mine roads you have to use.
EU Referendum (now Defence of the Realm) has been beating on this topic for years, but our soldiers are still being killed and mutilated in unarmored vehicles.
6. Targeted Killing
This is a tactic, not weapons system, but it works very well – even the suicidal nutters running Hamas moderated their attacks when the Israelis started killing them personally.
Of course it’s a very un-Brit, un-regular Army thing to do – centuries of battlefield etiquette say the top guys are left unmolested.
But this isn’t a battlefield: the enemy hides behind civilians, wears no uniform, and commits atrocities. His base of operations can be an office building, a school, or a mosque. He must not be allowed these sanctuaries, any more than we allowed German civilians sanctuaries in WW2.
Sometime in the next 10 years, the Brits may elect another Thatcher, and all the rogues and charlatans who have left our good men to perish will be swept away.
Then we will kill Moqtada al-Sadr.