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Viscount Slim: My Lords, if I heard the Minister right, he mentioned that the right honourable gentleman the Secretary of State visited the 10th Iraqi divisionI hope that I am correct. Yet he made no comment on its readiness for operations, its state of training, whether it has the communications to do the
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job and so on. Is it infiltrated by the militia, like certain parts of the police? Does the Minister know the state of that Iraqi division?
Lord Drayson: My Lords, when I visited Iraq in the summer, I had the clear impression that we are making progress in the training of the Iraqi security forces. On the 10th division, it is a small but positive indication that it has taken over responsibility for the first camp, Camp Chindit, as I mentioned. We have stated that we are making good progress towards our targets for the total number of Iraqi security forces, having just breached the total of 190,000, but we should not put too much focus on absolute numbers. The noble Viscount is absolutely right to focus on capability. We need to be clear that we are developing the real capability of those forces, such that we are increasing the numbers of Iraqi forces who can take over full responsibility without having to be accompanied and mentored by our forces.
On the noble Viscount's question about infiltration, my understanding is that no, we do not have the degree of problem with infiltration of the army that we do with certain small elements of the Iraqi police service.
Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, the Statement helpfully repeated by the Minister inevitably concentrates on the military situation and the deployment of troops. Perhaps I may remind the House that, if I have my geography correct, Iraq has six neighbourssovereign states. Can the Minister tell us anything about what weor the Iraqi governmentare doing to discuss with those neighbours the restoration of stability in Iraq and the avoidance of chaos? All those governments have a clear interest in trying to promote the stability of Iraq and varying interests in using their influence on the government of Iraq and on others who are causing trouble in Iraq. The Minister referred to our working with the United Nations, but can he tell us anything about our working particularly with Iraq's neighbours and with the Arab League?
Lord Drayson: My Lords, I agree that this is a complex situation. The position of Iraq, in providing the opportunity to establish a stable, democratic state in the Middle East, is of real concern to its neighbours. That is part of our ongoing ambassadorial relations. There is a clear sense of the need to support Iraq through its journey towards democracy. We must support Iraq, not just as regards the security situation, which the noble Lord so rightly highlighted, but also its political development. Some elements of the constitution are striking in terms of the progress that Iraq is making politically, not least the role of women that is being set out in the constitution.
The strength of democracy in Iraq and the leadership that it can show to its neighbours needs to be underpinned by the democracy delivering results for the citizens of Iraq. Here, our work on reconstruction has rebuilt 3,000 schools and the first
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civilian flights are now going into Basra airport. That demonstrates to Iraqis and their neighbours that we are making a positive difference.
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, will the noble Lord give us information on attacks by insurgents using suicide and roadside bombs on untrained personnel or recruits to the Iraqi Army and police, which appear to be very effective targets? For example, are we helping to set up a proper secure area for recruitment to the Iraqi police and army? That is important because it must have a very bad effect on morale.
Lord Drayson: My Lords, the noble Lord makes a very important point. However, morale does not seem to be affected, which underpins the commitment that the Iraqi people have to the progress that they are making. There is no shortage of people wishing to join the Iraqi security forces, particularly the army. None the less, we are, of course, doing everything that we can. We are supplying equipment and giving training and mentoring to those forces. We are passing on experience that we have gained, for example, in previous operations in Northern Ireland, in order to do everything that we can as regards tactics and equipment to overcome the threat presented by roadside bombs.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister to return to the extremely significant question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Richmond. In particular, he referred to the neighbours of Iraq, many of which, as the Minister knows well, have very close associations with certain parts of Iraqobviously, Iran with the Shi'ite areas, Saudi Arabia with the Sunnis, and so forth. Given those interests, which could be very divisive with regard to the effort to establish a united and democratic Iraq, as the Minister has clearly indicated would be the wish of all of us, has there been any attempt by Her Majesty's Government or the government of the United States to bring together the governments of those neighbours to consider their relationship to a newly developing Iraq after the constitutional issue has been settled? Are Her Majesty's Government active in trying to involve those governments in a United Nations outcome that might give greater stability to the future of Iraq than seems presently to be the case?
Lord Drayson: My Lords, I can confirm that Her Majesty's Government are making full efforts in this regard. It is part of the ongoing series of discussions we have undertaken with Iraq's neighbours through the process of political development in Iraq. I should stress that all efforts are being made here. Indeed, it was my own experience during a recent visit to Turkey that this is being done very effectively by Her Majesty's Government.
Lord Patten: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord and, through him, the Secretary of State for their efforts to
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sustain our servicemen and servicewomen in what they are doing in Iraq. I do not ask the noble Lord to speculate on when they will eventually be withdrawn, but as someone with no military training or background, I suspect that good training is just as important as good logistics and equipment. At that point, will the Government ensure that it is still possible for training to be provided by the United Kingdom and some of the other 27 nations that are helping on an ongoing basis to sustain the Iraqi Government as they face the difficult task before them?
Lord Drayson: My Lords, the noble Lord makes a good point, in that this process will take time. The type of training and mentoring we are providing will evolve as the Iraqi security forces themselves develop. One can imagine that in the future, through its training establishments the United Kingdom will be able to provide further training. In Basra I saw for myself the real commitment of young majors in the British Army to the support of members of the Iraqi security forces in their development. The focus is on the development of leadership, logistics, and command and control. While the basics are being put in place, it is also about developing capability. That is something to which we are committed over the long term.
Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, given that some troops now have to return to Iraq for the third time and the consequences for recruitment that the Minister has confirmed, and given the recurrence of grave public disorder in Northern Ireland and the consequential pressure being put on the PSNI, was not the decision not to relocate but to disband four battalions a misjudgment which the Government now regret?
Lord Drayson: No, my Lords, that was not a misjudgment. The reorganisation of the structure of the British Army is central to its modernisation so that it can meet the threats it faces both in terms of expeditionary warfare as set out in the Strategic Defence Review and the need to meet ongoing commitments such as that in Northern Ireland. We see the reorganisation as central to delivering a modern and effective armed service that can meet the situations that exist in the 21st century.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, can my noble friend say a little more about the Government's thinking on why the situation in MND (South East) deteriorated in the way it did? For those of us who have visited Iraq and have seen the strong relationship between our troops and the local people, that was a very disturbing development over the course of the summer. It also points up absolutely what he said about the development of civil society and strengthening the relationships within it. While he has said quite a lot about security and the development of political institutions, can he develop a little more the position on the economic questions and the
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development of civil society that will enable those relationships to gather strength over the coming months?
Lord Drayson: My Lords, I thank my noble friend who, as a Minister responsible for the Middle East, did so much to promote our policy in Iraq. She is right to highlight our approach with our international partners and its effect on the development of Iraq's civil society, which is key to the long-term development of that country. I do not think that we should overplay the incidents that took place on 19 September, which involved a crowd of 200 people. The Iraq police service helped us to control that crowd. Small elements of the Iraq police service, particularly those related to the Jameat police station, were a problem, but as I have said I think that the grip our Armed Forces have on the situation was shown in that they were able to deal with it so effectively.
But as my noble friend has so rightly said, the long-term key is the economic development of Iraq. Economic growth over the past year in GDP terms is encouraging and the Iraqi dinar has kept its place in relative parity to the dollar.
I have mentioned the number of hospitals. We should also consider the number of schools that have been rebuilt and the fact that you can go to certain places in downtown Basra where people can now get water on the second floor of their buildings.
None the less, we should recognise that after a country has been through literally decades of underinvestment and corruption, these things will not happen overnight. As supplies of electricity and water come back on stream, the demand will accelerate and, as the company is growing so fast, outstrip the speed at which such developments can take place. There is therefore a mismatch at present between the expectations of the local people of what we can achieve and the reality of what has been possible in the time that we have been there. Nevertheless, there are real, solid examples of the progress that has been made, and we must stick with it. We shall continue this investment to deliver progress on the ground.
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