Afghanistan,  Gordon MacMillan,  Iraq

Leaving Iraq

Today is the day Britain hands over control of Basra to the US. The Guardian reports how a British military pennant was “symbolically lowered over Basra” today as UK troops began their withdrawal from Iraq by formally handing command of the southern area of the country to the US army.

There are too many things to say about this and I want to keep it short. It has been a costly road from removing Saddam Hussein, with many Iraqis killed and the loss of 179 British personnel, but it was worth doing even if the execution wasn’t what some of us who supported it always hoped.

Things are better in Iraq, but there’s a long way to go.

Speaking ahead of today’s ceremony, Major General Andy Salmon, of the Royal Marines: “I can put my hand on my heart and say we’ve finished this right. I know that it was a very difficult start ‑ we all know that. We know that actually we went through some difficult times. So did the US army, we all went through difficult times. We stayed the course and we endured, and we partnered with everybody, and seized our opportunities and adapted along the way.”

With British troops out there is Afghanistan to focus on and the huge challenges faced there.

Not all of them are military ones.  The Guardian also has this today about the increasingly slippery and desperate politics of Hamid Karzai. He’s been accused of trying to win votes in Afghanistan’s presidential election by backing a law the UN says legalises rape within marriage and bans wives from stepping outside their homes without their husbands’ permission.

The Afghan president signed the law earlier this month, despite condemnation by human rights activists and some MPs.

Last week it was reported that the US, as part of Obama’s restatement of strategy in Afghanistan was looking to push Karzai aside.