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British Troops Must Leave Iraq: UAE Daily

ABU DHABI (WAM) — A major UAE English daily on Oct.14 commented on a call made by the new head of British Army for British troops to be withdrawn from Iraq and the reactions that followed that call.

The paper also commented on the clarion calls by a number of quarters worldwide for the notorious Guantanamo Bay detention centre to be closed down.

Commenting editorially in its issue of today, the Dubai-based "Gulf News" said: "General Richard Dannatt is the head of the British Army and his words carry the weight of that position. When he says that British troops should leave Iraq soon then he is directly challenging the British government.

This is unprecedented but then the fiasco of Iraq is unprecedented, too.

"Dannatt has a reputation for speaking his mind. Just last month he said that the army was barely coping with Iraq and Afghanistan. He may have tried to quell the media firestorm over his remarks by suggesting that "soon" could mean years but there is no denying his intent.

"He is clearly unhappy with the way the British government is using the armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and he represents the views of senior officers. British soldiers were sent in to join the "US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 ill-equipped, officers claim. They were deployed in southern Afghanistan this summer unprepared for the fight against the Taliban. It is incredible to recall that the British government publicly declared that they may not need to fire a shot in anger.

"The British and American governments keep on repeating parrot-like that exit from Iraq is "conditions-based." In other words when the Iraqi government can stand on its own and when peace has been restored then they will leave.

It is fantasy. Dannatt believes the British troops are part of the problem, not the solution.

"Senior officers have long admitted that morale has been affected by the wide range of tasks imposed on soldiers. British soldiers were being asked to take on the role of policemen, engineers, construction workers, politicians and diplomats. It is an impossible and thankless task.

"Dannatt has spoken words that should have been said years ago. For that he deserves our appreciation." Commenting on the repeated calls for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, under the title "US should heed the call of its ally." the paper said: "Just how long can Washington ignore the mounting calls for that wretched detention centre in Guantanamo to be shut down. The latest person to demand its closure is the British foreign secretary.

"When your main ally in the so-called war on terror criticises what Guantanamo stands for then it would pay to listen. But the response from Washington has been along the usual lines that bad people are kept there and must be kept there.

"Considering that these "terror suspects" (the Pentagon believes that the vast majority are innocent and were arrested because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time) have been there for five years without a single conviction then that argument is not worthy of rebuke.

"Guantanamo stands for everything that is not American. Arbitrary arrest, torture, confinement without charge. The British government believes it serves no useful purpose. When will Washington understand?"






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