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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 January 2006, 20:59 GMT
UK officer slams US Iraq tactics
By Matthew Davis
BBC News, Washington

US troops train Iraqis
The brigadier said he wanted to help an institution he respects
A senior British Army officer has sparked indignation in the US with a scathing article criticising the US Army's performance in Iraq.

Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster said US tactics early in the occupation had alienated Iraqis and exacerbated problems for the coalition.

Officers displayed cultural ignorance, self-righteousness, over-optimism and unproductive management, he said.

The article, in Military Review, has drawn US criticism but also approval.

'Stiflingly hierarchical'

In it Brig Aylwin-Foster says American officers displayed such cultural insensitivities that it "arguably amounted to institutional racism" and may have helped spur the insurgency.

Sometimes good articles do make you angry
Col Kevin Benson
School of Advanced Military Studies

While the army is "indisputably the master of conventional war fighting, it is notably less proficient in... what the US defence community often calls Operations Other Than War," the officer wrote.

Operations to win the peace in Iraq were "weighed down by bureaucracy, a stiflingly hierarchical outlook, predisposition to offensive operations and a sense that duty required all issues to be confronted head on", he added.

The British officer - who was commander of a programme to train the Iraqi military - says he wrote the article with the intent to "be helpful to an institution I greatly respect".

Yet the initial response from many US military officers was hostile.

'It made me upset'

Col Kevin Benson, commander of the US Army's elite School of Advanced Military Studies, said his first reaction was that Brig Aylwin-Foster was "an insufferable British snob".

The British, given their long history of colonialism, do have things to teach the Americans in this area, but lecturing them is not the answer.
Candadai, United States

"Some of this is pretty powerful stuff and it made me a little upset," the colonel told the BBC.

Col Benson, one of the lead planners for the 3rd US Army's early post-invasion operations, is writing a rebuttal to the Military Review piece.

"We paid a great deal of attention to the tribal interactions within Iraq and on making commanders in the field aware of the sensitivities," he said.

"And I certainly don't recognise what he says about the de-professionalisation of the US Army.

"But sometimes good articles do make you angry. We should publish articles like this. We are in a war and we must always be thinking of how we can improve the way we operate."

Earlier this month President George W Bush said US troop levels in Iraq would be reduced to several thousand below the pre-election baseline of 138,000 by Spring 2006.

Those cuts would come in addition to the decrease of 20,000 troops who were in the country largely to provide security during the December elections.

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