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Last Updated: Sunday, 7 September, 2003, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
More troops for Iraq
On Sunday, 7 September 2003, Breakfast with Frost featured an interview with Major General Patrick Cordingley and Ayham Al Samarray

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used.

ANDREW MARR: More British troops are on their way to Iraq this weekend. It's thought a further 3,000 will be despatched over coming days.

But the security situation there, far from stabilising, seems to be getting worse. Are we getting stuck in Iraq?

Joining us in the studio is Major General Patrick Cordingley who commanded the Desert Rats in the last Gulf War and from Baghdad, the new Iraqi Minister for Electricity, Dr. Ayham al Samaray. Patrick, first of all, what in practice can an extra 3,000 British troops do on the ground that will make a difference?

PATRICK CORDINGLEY: I think there's a danger that we all get terribly depressed by what's happening at the moment.

The plus side is that if you're sending extra troops out there are clearly tasks which have been found for them to do.

Now that indicates to me that there's intelligence coming in, and therefore there are more troops needed to crack these particular problems. So let's look on the plus side of the thing.

ANDREW MARR: There was one piece, in one of the papers this morning, saying that the experience in Northern Ireland was becoming more and more important in terms of how you dealt with the streets, and also a sense that they were worried about a relatively small number of Saddam enthusiasts and activists, rather than a general uprising or wider problem.

PATRICK CORDINGLEY: And it's been said time and again, we have this extraordinary experience from Northern Ireland which is tremendously helpful to us, which of course the Americans might not have, and we might be able to crack this problem rather more easily than they are doing.

But if we have got this intelligence coming in, and intelligence gathering takes a long time, to get the confidence of people, to get the information you need.

And now we're getting some of it, then as I say, let's look on the positive side. These people have got a particular task and they're acting in small groups to go and deal with things that they find. We obviously need more.

ANDREW MARR: Northern Ireland - very small area which we know very, very well. And it's gone on and on and on for decades. How great do you think the danger is of us being sucked into a very, very long commitment in Iraq that exhausts our patience, money, blood?

PATRICK CORDINGLEY: I've always felt that this was going to be a long commitment.

ANDREW MARR: How long do you think it's going to last?

PATRICK CORDINGLEY: Well, I mean, certainly we always thought it was going to be two years.

I personally believe it will go on for longer. And actually, if you look at all the operations we've been involved in since 1980, we're still there. So it's going to be a tremendous commitment.

ANDREW MARR: So, years and years ahead. Dr. Ayham al Samarray, you're in charge of electricity. We hear stories about constant blackouts, constant shortages. To start with, how bad it is at the moment?

AYHAM AL SAMARRAY: Well, right now we are in the area of 32-35 hundred megawatts.

ANDREW MARR: That's not enough?

AYHAM AL SAMARRAY: No, not enough, we know that. We are working this month, we are putting together a lot of available generating units in the plus transmission system to the 4400 megawatts which they call it the pre-war ...

ANDREW MARR: A long way still to go. Can I ask about the security situation. There's an awful lot of people in the west watching the stories and the suicide bombs and the shootings, and so on, will have a sense of despair, they will hear people like Patrick Cordingley talking about a commitment going ahead for years and they will ask themselves whether it's really going to be worth it.

What's your message to them?

AYHAM AL SAMARRAY: Well, I think this is will go down with the times and I assume this is very short time.

This is right now, the country is almost without law. We start putting together some regulations bodies, officials in the streets.

And we're trying to reach the people who is doing the troubles from all type of groups and to try to identify them.

ANDREW MARR: And when you and your colleagues in the Iraqi administration look ahead, are you assuming that British and American and other troops are going to be there helping you for two, three, four, five years ahead?

AYHAM AL SAMARRAY: No, I am looking to see everybody is going out of the cities in very short times. I ??? the British and the American soldiers to go out of the cities in six months' time and to stay outside in certain places to protect the country because the country has no soldiers to protect them.

So in three years or four years probably we need the help but the help will be going down and many ways to the limit when we have the Iraqi army established and I think we are already in the process of putting that army together.

ANDREW MARR: Patrick Cordingley, we've heard about that open-ended commitment, at least for a while. When it comes to what lessons the British Army has learned from this. I mean clearly it was militarily very, very successful at the moment.

But do you think we're moving to a new kind of army which is going to be more and more involved in these long-term peacekeeping operations around the world and that the shift from the first few weeks of the war to what's been going on since is something that will be, hearts and minds will be obsessed by in the Ministry of Defence at the moment?

PATRICK CORDINGLEY: Yes, there's definitely, as I've said from 1980, we've been more and more involved in this particular sort of operation and terrorism, world terrorism is something that we've got to cope with and I think we're doing it extremely well.

The trick of course is to have soldiers trained to be able to fight as they did in those first few weeks so successfully, then switching to this second operation, it's very difficult.

But the real problem that we have is, I won't say we, I've now retired, obviously the army has, is actually keeping people trained for both these expertise, so that you can do it very quickly when it's needed.

And the more people who get absorbed, I think there are something like 45,000 troops involved in operations at the moment, the less time you have to train them. And so you very soon get to a stage where your army isn't trained properly.

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