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Brits at breaking point in Iraq?

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    Fears that British forces in Iraq are reaching breaking point grew last night as the first hard evidence of a crisis in morale began to emerge. Are British
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 5, 2005
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      Fears that British forces in Iraq are reaching "breaking point" grew
      last night as the first hard evidence of a crisis in morale began to
      emerge.

      Are British troops at breaking point in Iraq?
      http://news.independent.co.uk/world/middle_east/article320343.ece
      By Ian Herbert
      18 October 2005


      The mood among soldiers of all ranks is at its gloomiest since the
      invasion in March 2003. The outlook has become darker as the war
      proves increasingly intractable and much more dangerous than troops
      had expected.

      A string of incidents in the past week has contributed to the sense
      of crisis:

      * The Ministry of Defence has launched an inquiry into the apparent
      suicide of Captain Ken Masters, a military police investigator who
      was found hanged at his barracks in Basra.

      * A decision by Private Troy Samuels, who was awarded a Military
      Cross seven months ago for his bravery under fire in Iraq, to
      abandon the military rather than return for another tour of duty.

      * Seventy soldiers from Private Samuels' battalion, the Princess of
      Wales Regiment (1PWRR), have also decided to leave the Army during
      the past year rather than return to Iraq

      * An RAF officer, Flt-Lt Malcolm Kendall-Smith, said he was prepared
      to face jail rather than serve in Iraq, in a war he considers to be
      illegal. He is to be court-martialled for "refusing to obey a lawful
      command" and is the first British officer to face criminal charges
      for challenging the legality of the war.

      The increasingly desperate position of British troops in southern
      Iraq was highlighted last night by the former cabinet minister Clare
      Short. "The Government are putting the armed forces into an
      impossible position," she said. "It is obviously affecting morale."

      Ms Short, who resigned over the war, is introducing a Bill on Friday
      to compel the Government to seek parliamentary approval before going
      to war again. She added: "An army officer stopped me in the street
      in Whitehall and said his job was talking to parents of those who
      had been killed in Iraq. He said he supported what I was doing. He
      said that his job was unbearable. I think the time has come to get a
      negotiated timetable for an end to the occupation."

      Such a move seems unlikely, however. Recent comments by the Foreign
      Secretary, Jack Straw, that British forces might have to stay in an
      increasingly volatile conflict for up to 10 more years have
      exacerbated fears among British forces that the conflict in which
      they are engaged is open-ended and lacking a credible exit strategy.
      There are currently 8,500 British troops in Iraq, most serving a six-
      month tour of duty. Claims have been made that many of those being
      sent out feel they do not have the experience to cope with the
      pressures.

      According to Combat Stress, the military charity dedicated to
      helping soldiers suffering psychological problems, the seemingly
      indefinite struggle has created the greatest crisis of morale among
      British troops for decades.

      Commodore Toby Elliott, the chief executive of Combat Stress, told
      The Independent that many soldiers were leaving the Army early in
      the hope that its psychological effects ­ flashbacks, nightmares and
      guilt that they had survived while colleagues had not ­ would abate.
      Commodore Elliot said: "The effects of the Iraq situation are
      comparable to serving in Northern Ireland during the worst of the
      Troubles when they were subjected to car-bomb attacks."

      The incidents are symptomatic of a general malaise. One corporal
      said: " This has been a hard, hard tour. I would be glad not to be
      back in Iraq for a while." Another NCO added: "Mr Blair keeps on
      saying that everything is getting better here. Perhaps he would care
      to come and see for himself. He is pretty good at sending other
      peoples' sons to Iraq."

      Pte Samuels' decision to leave the Army may be a particularly
      significantlandmark. A war hero, he was decorated for saving lives
      during the ambush which earned his comrade Pte Johnson Beharry a
      Victoria Cross. But he told The Independent yesterday that he
      decided to leave the moment he was told his unit would be returning
      to Iraq.

      "I couldn't do that," he said, "Not straight away like that. It
      would be different if they were sending me to somewhere like
      Afghanistan ­ but not Iraq, right now. The stress for the guys out
      there is immense. They are seeing so much bad stuff. I owed it to my
      family to call it a day."

      The current intensity of day-to-day combat is evident in the recent
      incident logs for Pte Samuel's regiment which show that soldiers
      have faced 109 individual attacks in a single day.

      Capt Masters, 40, with 24 years' experience, had been involved in
      investigations of alleged mistreatment of detainees by British
      soldiers. Army sources have reported that the stress of
      investigating colleagues may have contributed to his death.

      Pte Samuel's decision to leave showed that "psychological injuries"
      could affect the bravest of officers, said a spokesman for Combat
      Stress, which is helping 57 soldiers from the conflict.

      Paul Beaver, a defence analyst with close links to senior staff,
      said: " There's obviously a disappointment that things have not gone
      better. But the main difference between army morale now and 12
      months ago is that there is a resignation among the soldiers that
      they are in it for the long haul. There is also recognition that
      some of the elements [the Iraqi police] that they trusted can no
      longer be trusted and that they must fall back on their own
      resources."

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