For several years the British have been proudly telling the world about how well their operation is going in Basra, showing their supposed superior methods, experience and tactics to those rough Yanks to the North. The UK press has picked up on this as part of a flag waving exercise, indeed we're still listening to this - only now in Afghanistan.
Make no mistake, we're going to get out of Basra as soon as we can. For several reasons, primarily because we've lost the battle. We have no control over the city, never mind the province - for details on the absolute chaos behind the scenes check out Occupational Hazards by Rory Stewart.
The British troops are bunkered down outside the city in one of Saddams palaces with the usual tactical brilliance that our officer class is renowned for:
The palace’s isolated location has also served the insurgents. Built by Saddam Hussein in 1990 at the southern end of the city, buttressing the Shatt al-Arab waterway, there are only three viable resupply routes for logistics convoys to reach the base from the main British camp at the airport on Basra’s outskirts. Hugely vulnerable, all three pass directly through the city.
The requirements of food, water, fuel, ammunition and spare vehicle parts ensure that these resupply convoys are vast — sometimes more than 100 vehicles. Some of the civilian lorry drivers involved in the operation get drunk to summon the courage to make the run. And al-Mahdi Army attacks the convoys from the moment they get into the city right up to the palace gates.
So, we're losing men just to bring the bogrolls in. As one soldier said “We can debate it all we want but at the end of the day it’s about pride.”
And now comes the fall.