Jackson fears Army will remain in Iraq for years

British troops will be sent to help the US in conflict zones anywhere inside Iraq, prompting fears that soldiers could be stuck in the most dangerous parts of the country fighting insurgents for years to come.

General Sir Mike Jackson, the officer commanding the Army, said in an interview with The Independent yesterday that troops could again be dispatched outside the Basra area to help the US and Iraqi forces if the insurgent threat escalates. The deployment could also go on beyond the end of 2005 when the US mandate for the coalition to stay in the country expires. "It is event-driven," he said.

Sir Mike's remarks will raise fears among critics of the war that Britain is being sucked deeper into the mire in Iraq by extending its mission.

Four British soldiers have died in suicide attacks and bombings since the Black Watch was sent north to support the US-led onslaught on Fallujah three weeks ago. It was the first time UK troops have left the British-controlled area of Basra.

Aware of the unpopularity of the deployment, the Government has been at pains to say that the Black Watch troops will be back home by Christmas. And Tony Blair said last month that he "did not believe that there will be a further requirement for other troops" to be deployed away from Basra.

"Yes, we have said that the Black Watch will come back by Christmas," the Prime Minister said. "As to what then happens, we cannot be sure. We do not believe that there will be a further requirement for other troops, but I cannot guarantee that, because, obviously, I do not know the situation that may arise."

Meanwhile, Iraqi authorities announced yesterday that national elections would be held on 30 January despite escalating violence. The elections will clash with the annual haj, when millions of pilgrims travel overland through Iraq. They will come from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, making it impossible to seal Iraq's borders.

In Ramadi, 35 miles west of Fallujah, gunmen attacked a group of Iraqi National Guard troops yesterday, killing nine and wounding 17 after hijacking a convoy and lining the men up for execution. Earlier in the day, several Iraqi civilians were killed when US Marines fired on a bus that drove through a checkpoint.

Near Latifiyah, south of Baghdad, a Reuters reporter watched gunmen kill two off-duty National Guards troops and a policeman at a roadblock.

In Mosul, Iraq's third city, the bodies of three men killed by insurgents were left lying on a street a day after US troops discovered the bodies of nine Iraqi soldiers. All 12 men had been shot in the back of the head. Four headless corpses were also discovered in the city last week. A group led by the al-Qa'ida ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for the killings. In Baghdad, four large explosions shook the area near the US-guarded Green Zone after sunset but no casualties were reported.

Sir Mike said that all the British operations had been in the Basra area "until this one-off deployment of the Black Watch. That is not to say, in the future, there may not be a military requirement of the coalition as a whole for a British unit or units to be elsewhere".

The Black Watch would be pulled back within a few weeks and would not be replaced at Camp Dogwood, he said.

Sir Mike rejected claims by the Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, that the Black Watch deployment was a sign of "mission creep''. "The mission is to provide Iraq with its political and economic future," he said. "That's the mission."

Sir Mike also appeared to suggest that the British deployment could go on beyond December 2005, when the mandate for the coalition in Iraq officially ends. "How long we stay there is going to be event-driven," he said.

Iraq was now more "challenging", he said, adding: "It's clear a minority - and I believe a pretty small minority - of Iraqis with some outside assistance cannot face the idea of progress in Iraq and are prepared to do some pretty revolting things to prevent it. And they cannot be allowed to succeed."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?