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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 April, 2004, 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK
US game plan in Iraq questioned

By Jonathan Marcus
BBC defence correspondent

Two US generals in Iraq have criticised the policy of excluding senior Baath Party members - including Iraqi army officers - from jobs in the post-war administration.

US marines on the outskirts of Falluja
Concerns over troop numbers were dismissed by Pentagon officials

Maj Gen John Batiste - commander of the US First Infantry Division - told the New York Times newspaper that it would be a good thing to harness their energies.

The US commander in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, Brig Gen Carter F Ham, said the de-Baathification policy has left many Sunni Muslims feeling disenfranchised, which has clearly had a destabilising effect.

It was the famous French statesman, Georges Clemenceau, who said that "war is too important to be left to the generals".

Strategy in the broadest sense would be set by the politicians.

It was the generals' job to implement that strategy on the ground.

Questions raised

But in the case of Iraq, the overall military game plan seems to have been set by the politicians, notably US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and a small group of senior Pentagon officials.

The British approach to post-conflict situations was doctrinally different to that of the US
Head of British Army Gen Sir Mike Jackson
The US currently has some 135,000 troops in Iraq.

Before the invasion, the then head of the US Army, Gen Eric Shinseki, said that in his view several hundred thousand troops would be needed to maintain security and stability.

His comments were simply dismissed by top Pentagon officials.

Now, the two serving generals have raised questions about the wisdom of excluding Baath party officials from the post-war administration.

The Pentagon insisted that the Iraqi army be disbanded and that brand new security forces be recruited and trained.

British criticism

But the two generals seem to share the view that the policy of casting senior Iraqi officers aside was a mistake.

British generals, too, have been speaking out.

Yesterday, the head of the British Army - Gen Sir Mike Jackson - told the House of Commons Defence Committee it was a fact that "the British approach to post-conflict situations was doctrinally different to that of the US".

There has been some criticism of US tactics from British, Polish and other commanders.

Perhaps peacekeeping in Iraq is too important to be left to the Pentagon.

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