Isabel Hardman Isabel Hardman

How the UK messed up Iraq: what the Chilcot Inquiry says about post-conflict planning

The Iraq Inquiry dismisses claims that the aftermath of the invasion could not have been foreseen. It describes the planning and preparations for the country after the fall of Saddam Hussein were ‘wholly inadequate’. In his statement, Sir John said that ‘despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated’.

The report details both an awareness of the inadequacy of plans and a marked lack of effort from Whitehall. It says:

‘The scale of the UK effort in post-conflict Iraq never matched the scale of the challenge. Whitehall departments an their ministers failed to put collective weight behind the task.’

The government ‘failed to take account of the magnitude of the task of stabilising, administering and reconstructing Iraq’, while Tony Blair failed to ensure that there was ministerial oversight of the plans developed by the US, and did not work on a way of integrating the UK military and civilian contributions to the war. The report says that the two countries’ strategies for Iraq ‘began to diverge almost immediately after the conflict’.

When it came to the UK’s responsibility for the four provinces in the South East of the country, no-one ensured that military and civilian forces were actually capable of doing what they were supposed to in these provinces, particularly when it came to security. This lack of planning meant that ‘the results were meagre’. The government was unprepared for the role which it was required to deliver in the country from April 2003 onwards. Blair wrote to President Bush on 2 June 2003, saying:

‘The task is absolutely awesome and I’m not at all sure we’re geared for it.

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