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Thursday, June 14, 2007

New UK commander tells Iraqis 'We will stand by you’


BASRAH — The new UK Brigade Commander in southern Iraq, Brigadier James Bashall, delivered a powerful message to the Iraqi people June 5 aimed at reassuring them that he has their best interests at heart.

Brigadier Bashall, of Tidworth-based 1 Mechanised Brigade, joined forces with Brigadier Akeel of the Iraqi Army 10th Division at a joint press conference, the first since his recent arrival in Basrah when he took over from Brigadier Tim Evans, Commander 19 Light Brigade.

1 Mechanised Brigade officially took control of the Brigade Headquarters on June 1. With the exception of a few units, the Brigade is now fully operational in southern Iraq and an important component of Multinational Division South East (MND(SE)).

Brigadier Bashall was keen to reassure the local people that he intends to build on the excellent work achieved by his predecessors in 19 Light Brigade during the last six months.

And his message was simple: that he and the rest of the UK personnel in southern Iraq had the best interests of the Iraqi people at heart. He said that there would be no let up in operations against the terrorists and criminals who continue to pose a threat to the people of Basra and the surrounding area.

"This is my third tour of duty here and I would hope that I have learned many valuable lessons that will assist me during this tenure," he explained. "I intend to put my previous experience to good use."

The Brigadier went on to confirm 2007 as the year of transition and that Iraqi Security Forces were making significant movements in order to ensure the transition to Provincial Iraqi Control. He also said that the training and support of the Iraqi Security Forces is his top priority and that he will do everything he can in order to assist them.

"You will have heard many times that 2007 is the year of transition and there has been much talk of British troops withdrawing,” he said. “This is simply not the case. The Prime Minister did announce a reduction in our force levels in Iraq but this is because the Iraqi Security Forces are growing both in confidence and capability.

"As the Iraqi Security Forces increasingly take the lead for security, the Multi National Force will adjust its force posture so that we can help with the crucial task of building Iraqi capacity while retaining the ability to intervene in support of the Iraqi forces should the situation demand it,” Brigadier Bashall said.

"Your security is of great importance. The training of your Security Forces is my top priority and I have soldiers dedicated to this task. Your military, the Police Service and the Department of Border Enforcement have achieved a great deal in the past year,” he continued. “We must build on this and continue to enhance your security. Improvements to the security situation will encourage investment in Al Basrah and your economy to grow as a result."

Brigadier Bashall added that attacks against multi-national forces are an attack against the ordinary citizens of Iraq.

"Criminals and terrorists hamper our efforts to assist you as well as causing injuries and damage. Whilst my priority is to train and mentor your security forces, I will continue to defend my forces against militia attacks and target those who are responsible,” he said. "I would be grateful if you could take away the message that my Brigade is here to offer you support and we will stand by you. There are many challenges ahead, but it is in all our interests that we succeed. Only you, the Iraqi people will provide the lasting solution."

Photo - Commander 1 Mechanized Brigade, Brigadier James Bashall (right), holds his first press conference with Brigadier Akeel, Commander 1 Brigade, 10 Division, Iraqi Army at Basrah International Airport. Photo by Cpl. Dan Harmer.

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