James Forsyth James Forsyth

Army boss admits that Britain’s problems in Iraq came from a lack of troops on the ground

The most important story in today’s papers is Deborah Haynes’ report on Sir Richard Dannatt’s speech to the Royal United Services Institute. In the speech, Dannatt makes clear that the reason the British operation failed in the south was that there were not an adequate number of troops on the groundL 

 “Our failure to deliver this . . . and our early switch to an economy of force operation, in favour of Afghanistan, sowed the seeds for the dissatisfaction that followed and the rise of the militias, supported so cynically by the Iranians in the south.”

This country faces a moment of decision: we either properly fund and equip our armed forces or we retreat from our role on the world stage. If the Conservative party believes that this country should be more than just a peace-keeping nation, then it will have to be prepared to increase defence spending. The problems in Iraq demonstrate that fighting wars on peacetime budgets is not sustainable. As Dannatt said last night, “An economy of force operation is a false economy,” he said. “We must either tailor our ambitions to the force we can afford, or we must properly resource the undertaking we have committed to within the coalition — not to do so risks repeating the experience of Iraq.”

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