Monday, September 20, 2004
Basra Watch: The 'War' Goes on....

The Kansas City Star has an article on the current situation in Basra and the tactics deployed by the British Army during the Al-Sadr insurgency. Whilst the militias occupied parts of the city, the British Army preferred to wait the emergency out and see if a political solution could be obtained. This worked for now, though one battle was likened to 'Black Hawk Down'.

Patrick Kerkstra takes the pulse of Basra and documents the long-term poison of corruption amongst the trained police forces, providing further evidence that you can't teach an old shi'ite new tricks.

On a patrol last week, police trainees handled their duties with aplomb, snaring two likely oil smugglers while British forces observed. It was clear that 15 months of instruction had given the river police service plenty of technical know-how. But know-how isn't the problem. "When the British forces watch, we catch the smugglers," said coxswain Matwok Drwesh, 37. "When they are not there, the smugglers go free for maybe a little money. Bribes are common." Drwesh, who said he didn't take bribes, claimed that corrupt senior officials routinely release arrested smugglers. "It's useless," Drwesh said. "Why am I bothering myself to catch the smugglers? It is a mafia." Other members of the Iraq River Police Service were almost as critical, agreeing that corruption in the force was widespread.

With the poverty in Iraq following the downfall of Saddam, it is difficult to see how any power could have prevented the rise of a local mafia, profiting from piracy, smuggling and drugs.

However, there are conflicting reports on the future deployment of British troops with defence reporters citing sources for both increases and decreases. The reasonable prediction is a similar number as now to provide security in the run-up to the elections, unless cover is found so that Britain can rotate troops into Afghanistan (as indicated yesterday).

Whatever the planned deployment of troops, another report on the plight of former 'buffalo soldiers' and the contempt with which they are held by the authorities. Ex medical sargeant Tej Bahadur Limbu is being deported back to Nepal since the immigration authorities do not believe that his life could be threatened by those nice Maoist guerillas.

Limbu returned to Britian last year amid fears that Maoist rebels may target him because of his service to Britain. "I've been working for the British Government since I was a teenager and I like this country and its people. I have given my blood, my sweat, my tears and my heart. But I'm being kept here like a dog in a kennel," the report quoted him as saying.

To the British authorities, loyalty is a one-way street.

(23.07, 20th September 2004)


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