Former UK defense minister says planning for aftermath of Iraq invasion could have been better

By Jill Lawless, AP
Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ex-UK minister: postwar planning for Iraq lacking

LONDON — British officials worried before the invasion of Iraq that the Americans weren’t putting enough thought into postwar planning, the head of Britain’s defense ministry at the time said Tuesday.

Former Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon told an official inquiry into the war that planning was not as “detailed and comprehensive as we would have liked.”

He acknowledged the aftermath of the 2003 invasion “did not go as well as we wanted it to go.”

Britain is holding its third and widest-ranging inquiry into the conflict, which triggered huge protests and left 179 British dead before the country’s troops withdrew from Iraq last year.

Hoon is the first member of former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wartime Cabinet to appear before the panel. Blair is scheduled to testify Jan. 29.

The unpopular conflict continues to dog Blair, who has been accused of promising President George W. Bush that Britain would join an invasion with or without U.N. approval.

Britain’s former ambassador to the U.S., Christopher Meyer, has told the inquiry that Bush and Blair used an April 2002 meeting at Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, to “sign in blood” an agreement to take military action.

Senior Blair aides deny that. Hoon said he did not think Blair gave a promise to Bush to support war come what may.

Hoon said he had shared his concerns about planning with U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in February 2003, a month before the invasion.

He said the British government also did not appreciate the challenges occupying forces would face. He criticized Britain’s Foreign Office and Department for International Development for delays in sending civilian staff to take over reconstruction work from the military.

The inquiry, which is scheduled to report by the end of the year, won’t apportion blame or establish liability, but will offer recommendations on how to prevent errors in future conflicts.

Two previous reports on aspects of the war cleared Blair’s government of wrongdoing.

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