Posted by Sadie from ? (220.127.116.11) on Tuesday, April 01, 2003 at 12:59PM :
The ONLY difference between British troops & U.S. troops: the British troops train by studying experiences from *older* imperialistic endeavours.
April 1, 2003
Coalition Divided Over Battle for Hearts and Minds
British Military Critical of US Troops' Heavy-Handed Style with Civilians
by Richard Norton-Taylor and Rory McCarthy in Camp as-Sayliyah, Qatar
Cracks are appearing between British and American commanders which have serious implications for their future operations in Iraq.
Senior British military officers on the ground are making it clear they are dismayed by the failure of US troops to try to fight the battle for hearts and minds.
They also made plain they are appalled by reports over the weekend that US marines killed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, as they seized bridges outside Nassiriya in southern Iraq.
"You can see why the Iraqis are not welcoming us with open arms," a senior defense source said yesterday.
General Sir Mike Jackson, the head of the army, drove home the point at a press conference in London on Friday. "We have a very considerable hearts and minds challenge," he said, adding: "We are not interested in gratuitous violence."
British and American troops "must convince the Iraqis of their good intentions", echoed Adam Ingram, the armed forces minister. It was not clear whether he was referring to any particular incident.
Yesterday, British officers described the very different approach between UK and American soldiers by pointing to Uum Qasr, the Iraqi port south of Basra and the first urban area captured by US and UK marines. "Unlike the Americans, we took our helmets and sunglasses off and looked at the Iraqis eye to eye," said a British officer.
While British soldiers "get out on their feet", Americans, he said, were reluctant to leave their armored vehicles. When they did do so - and this was the experience even in Uum Qasr - US marines were ordered to wear their full combat kit.
One difference emphasized yesterday by senior British military sources was the attitude towards "force protection". A defense source added: "The Americans put on more and more armour and firepower. The British go light and go on the ground." He made it plain what approach should be adopted towards what he called "frightened Iraqis".
British defense sources contrast the patient tactics deployed by their troops around Basra and what they call the more brutal tactics used by American forces around Nassiriya.
US marines in the southern Iraqi town appeared to have fired indiscriminately, with orders to shoot at civilian vehicles. One was reported to have knowingly killed an Iraqi civilian woman.
According to reports from journalists and military spokesmen in the area, British troops - Royal Marines and the 7th Armored Brigade, the Desert Rats - have played a patient, waiting game.
An officer described it yesterday as "raid and aid" - a combination of raiding parties against specific targets such as local Ba'ath party leaders, and at the same time delivering aid to the local population.
Unlike their American counterparts, British commanders have said they will not change their tactics following the suicide bombing attack last week on a group of US marines in Nassiriya.
The British military put the difference in approach down to decades of training as well as experience - first in colonial insurgencies in Malaysia, then in Northern Ireland and peacekeeping operations in the Balkans.
"42 Commando's last tour was in Northern Ireland," Major Tim Cook of the Royal Marines said yesterday, referring to the unit now in Uum Qasr. Before that it was in Sierra Leone. Other commandos in southern Iraq had recently been based in Pristina, provincial capital of Kosovo.
Sir Roger Wheeler, former head of the army, points to the "experience, awareness, and skill" - particularly important among non-commissioned officers such as corporals and sergeants. "British NCOs have the confidence," a senior officer echoed yesterday.
What is striking is the emphasis senior British military figures are placing on the differences between their approach and that of the Americans on the ground. They have gone out of their way to draw attention to nervous, "trigger-happy" US soldiers.
American commanders say they are getting the message. Brigadier General Vince Brooks, a senior US officer at central command in Qatar, said yesterday his troops had a "heightened awareness" about civilians on the battlefield.
He said soldiers were now aware they were facing a "set of regime players who will quickly put themselves in civilian clothes, hide weapons, do things that are inconsistent with the laws of armed conflict, exhibit brutalities against civilians.
"We still make determinations on the ground about whether a threat is posed or not. It is very, very difficult to sort that out."
General Richard Myers, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, went out of his way over the weekend to say his troops were learning from the British.
After agreeing with General William Wallace, commander of US ground forces in Iraq, that the enemy was responding in a way that the allies had not "wargamed" for, he said American - as well as British - forces could afford to be patient.
US marines in Nassiriya have said they had asked British troops for instructions in how to conduct urban warfare.
They began using new tactics in operations around the town yesterday when they started searching suburbs of the city block by block.
"We are going in to go block by block and we are going to weed out all enemy personnel," said Captain Rick Crevier, a company commander with the US Marines.
British military sources are now concerned that the experience in peacekeeping and unconventional warfare of British troops will mean they will be in Iraq long after the Americans have left, even for years, in policing and humanitarian operations.
Shortly after George Bush was elected president, the former chief of defense staff, Lord Guthrie, told the Guardian that the new administration was moving towards light, flexible forces which can "get there quicker but not stay around for ever". He added: "The Americans talk about the warrior ethic and ... that peacekeeping is for wimps."
Iraq has shown that the quick-light-flexible force strategy has not worked. The concern here among military chiefs is that the experience will mean the US will want to get out of places even quicker, leaving the British and others to continue fighting the battle for hearts and minds.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003
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