Britain’s forces were sent to war in Iraq poorly prepared and ill-equipped by a government that was also “hopelessly optimistic” about post-war reconstruction, the Sunday Telegraph quotes leaked documents as saying.
The documents, published two days before the start of an independent inquiry into the 2003 war, include full transcripts of classified interviews with army commanders and overall “lessons learnt” papers, the Sunday Telegraph said.
The leaked government reports say the war phase was a “significant military success” but one achieved against a “third-rate army,” the paper said.
“A more capable enemy would probably have punished these shortcomings severely,” the report added.
The operation was “rushed…lacking in coherence and resources,” the documents were reported to have said.
One commander was quoted as having said some soldiers went into action with only five bullets each, while some had their weapons confiscated by airport security after they were forced to fly out on civilian airlines.
A container of skis was delivered because of a failure in the supply chain, another commander said.
The Foreign Office unit which was to plan for a post-war Iraq was set up only three weeks before the war started, and there was a “horrifying” lack of support for reconstruction, the paper reported.
“It was not unlike 1750s colonialism where the military had to do everything ourselves,” a commander was reported as having said.
An analysis of the occupation described British reconstruction plans as “hopelessly optimistic.”
The Foreign Office issued a statement in which it said the Iraq inquiry was set up to investigate the run-up to the conflict, the conflict and the reconstruction.
“All these issues will be dealt with,” it added. “The government is not going to comment on the lines of investigation the inquiry might pursue or on what conclusions it might draw from these hearings.”
The Ministry of Defense said it “recognizes the importance of identifying and learning lessons from operations.”
“The top priority of the military and the government has always been to provide the best equipment for our people in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are constantly improving and upgrading,” it said in the statement.