Ex-army chief criticises U.S. over Iraq

LONDON (Reuters) - The head of the army during the Iraq invasion has launched a scathing attack on U.S. post-war policy, The Daily Telegraph reported on Saturday, underlining growing transatlantic strains over Iraq.

In this file photo Sir Mike Jackson makes a statement in London about the court martial of three British soldiers in Germany. Jackson has launched a scathing attack on U.S. post-war policy, a newspaper reported on Saturday, underlining growing transatlantic strains over Iraq. REUTERS/Stefan Rousseau/PA/Pool

General Sir Mike Jackson, a now retired former chief of the general staff, said the approach taken by former U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was “intellectually bankrupt” and described his comment that U.S. forces “don’t do nation-building” as “nonsensical”, the paper said.

Jackson’s comments, made in his autobiography that is to be serialised in the Telegraph, highlights the deep-seated tension between the British command and the Pentagon during the 2003 Iraq war, the paper said.

Jackson said the entire U.S. approach to tackling global terrorism was “inadequate” because it relied too heavily on military power at the expense of nation-building and diplomacy, the report said.

His intervention comes as U.S. and British officials and experts trade increasingly bitter accusations over the Iraq war, eroding the unity between two countries that were staunch allies in the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

The Daily Telegraph said Jackson was particularly critical of U.S. President George W. Bush’s decision to hand control of the post-invasion running of Iraq to the Department of Defence.

“All the planning carried out by the State Department went to waste,” he wrote.

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Jackson said the U.S. decision to disband the Iraqi army after Saddam’s overthrow was “very short-sighted ... We should have kept the Iraqi security services in being and put them under the command of the coalition.”

He said he and other senior officers had doubts about the dossier on alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction presented by the British government to justify the invasion.

“We all knew that it was impossible for Iraq to threaten the UK mainland,” he said.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said Jackson was a “private individual and is entitled to express his opinion on his former job”.

Since Gordon Brown succeeded Tony Blair as prime minister in June, there has been increasing criticism in the U.S. press of British forces’ role in southern Iraq and speculation has increased that Brown could speed up the withdrawal of British forces.

Britain fought back against the critics on Friday when its foreign and defence ministers published an editorial in a U.S. newspaper staunchly defending its record.

Britain has 5,500 troops in Basra, southern Iraq. Washington is concerned that if Britain were to pull out, Basra could disintegrate into intra-sectarian fighting.

Jackson is not the first senior British military figure to criticise events in Iraq. In October 2006, army commander General Sir Richard Dannatt said the presence of British troops in Iraq was aggravating the security situation on the ground and they should be withdrawn soon.