SAS shafted by government…..again.

This is a bad story, the MOD should be held accountable. The idiot in London should be sacked.
Most of all the Government that allowed this to happen should hang their heads in shame.

SAS defied MoD to rescue two of its men held hostage in Iraq as top commanders ‘prepared to quit’ over ban on mission

The SAS launched a daring mission to rescue two of its own men held hostage in Iraq against the orders of the Ministry of Defence, the Daily Mail can reveal.

The elite unit was pushed to the brink of mutiny after it was banned from saving the SAS soldiers captured by militants because to do so would embarrass the Government.

The astonishing edict drove SAS officers close to mass resignation, according to a hardhitting report by the Tory MP Adam Holloway, a former Guards officer.
SAS defied MoD to rescue two of its men held hostage in Iraq as top commanders ‘prepared to quit’ over ban on mission

Horror: A British soldier (circled) escapes in flames from his vehicle after it is attacked by a mob in the first phase of the rescue mission

The SAS Lieutenant-Colonel on the ground, believing that ‘politically motivated’ commanders in the UK were ‘unable to make rational and effective decisions’, sent in a rescue team anyway – fearful that within hours the captured men could have been spirited away or executed.

The rescuers blasted their way into the police station in Basra where the two soldiers were being held and saved them.

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Details of the incident in 2005 expose the shameful way the Armed Forces have become politicised under Labour – with political spin put before soldiers’ lives.

Mr Holloway’s explosive account is supported by General Sir Mike Jackson, who was head of the Army at the time but only learned of the scandal later.

General Jackson last night made clear his disgust at the way soldiers were asked to sacrifice their men for political reasons, shattering the sacred military covenant that no man is left behind on the battlefield.

He told the Mail: ‘The story as you relate it chimes with my memory of the events. It was not only a brave but a very necessary operation to release those two captured soldiers. The British Army looks after its own. Underline that three times.’

The two troopers were seized by militant Islamic militiamen who had infiltrated the Iraqi police.

But a ‘very senior general’ at Permanent Joint Headquarters in Northwood, to the west of London, refused to approve the rescue mission.

Ministry of Defence officials were concerned that attacking an Iraqi police station would undermine the Government’s claims that Britain was successfully handing power to the local security services.
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In a report on the Failure of British Military and Political Leadership in Basra, published by the First Defence think tank, Mr Holloway says: ‘The senior operational commanders in the MoD – a continent away from the frontline – repeated very clearly, and a number of times, that there were “more important things at stake than the lives of the soldiers”.’

Explaining the reasons for the decision, Mr Holloway quotes a senior British civilian official in Iraq at the time: ‘The need to rescue the soldiers from an insurgent group embedded within the police force proved that our training and mentoring operation was dangerously ineffective, and in complete contradiction to the universally positive picture presented to Whitehall by the Government and MoD at the time.’

That explanation was met with incredulity in the special forces. The report says SAS commanders regarded the orders as ‘politically-motivated deliberations’ that would only succeed in giving the insurgents time to ‘remove their captives beyond the reach of any rescue operation’.

The SAS Lt-Col ‘told his forward based troops to mount the operation with or without approval. In the event, approval did come through – but the operation was already being mounted by the time that it did’.

In a damning conclusion, Mr Holloway reveals: ‘The next day General Mike Jackson was told what had happened and was, reportedly, appalled. He also learned that had the authority not eventually come through the commanding officer and many of his officers and senior ranks would have resigned.’

Mr Holloway’s account makes no reference to the SAS but it was widely reported at the time that the two soldiers seized were part of the special forces regiment based in Hereford.

He reveals that the SAS Lt-Col later left the Army, ‘disillusioned at the degeneration of the moral backbone of British military generalship in the heart of Whitehall’. The MoD said it did not comment on special forces matters.

‘There are more important things than the lives of soldiers’ said the voice in London

By Tim Shipman

The SAS commander in Basra was planning one of the most risky and high-profile operations in the regiment’s recent history when he discovered that the enemy was not his biggest problem.

Hunkered in the nondescript HQ in Iraq’s second city, the Lieutenant-Colonel watched for the umpteenth time as footage of two of his men – held captive, beaten and bloodied – flashed on the TV screen in his office.

It was September 19, 2005, and in a jail in the centre of town two SAS men accused of killing an Iraqi policeman were held hostage by militants who had infiltrated the Iraqi police.

Beaten: The SAS men were paraded on TV. We have protected their identities

Three hundred miles north, on an airfield just outside Baghdad, a C-130 Hercules special forces transport plane sat on the runway, wind whipping the sand into a yellow mist.

In the back, a squadron of SAS troops sat patiently looking at the crate of kit strapped to the floor of the fuselage, pulses quickening as they checked their Heckler & Koch submachine guns and C8 carbine rifles.

A second SAS squadron in Basra prepared for the arrival of the reinforcements. Like any mission they had made speedy plans and moved into action with calm professionalism.

But this time it was personal. The targets were two of their own. That was when the call came – on a secure line from a military bunker just outside London. The Lt-Col could not believe what he was hearing. ‘Permission not granted. There are more important things than the lives of the soldiers.’

The voice was that of a senior general at Permanent Joint Headquarters at Northwood, the UK nerve centre of the war.

That was when the Lt-Col realised that his biggest challenge would be the top brass at home. The men waiting on the runway were flabbergasted when they heard. ‘People were pretty fired up,’ one source close to the regiment said. ‘And then there was the let down. The CO was furious.’

It was then the commanding officer made the decision that could have seen him and his brother officers hauled over the coals. The alternative, they agreed, was to resign en masse in disgust.

He picked up the phone and made the fateful call. ‘We’re doing it anyway,’ he said. Minutes later the C-130 took off. There was no going back. BASRA was originally proclaimed a beacon for post-war Iraq, a model of how to hand over control to the local population.

But now it was a hotbed of militia extremism. For weeks the SAS had been monitoring and infiltrating the Iraqi insurgent groups who were quietly gaining a stranglehold on the very police force that British soldiers were supposed to be working with to restore order.

Attack: An Iraqi protester hurls a rock at a Warrior armoured vehicle covered in flames caused by a petrol bomb

The operation had gathered intensity after six British soldiers were killed in attacks by militants. The crisis began when a group of special forces soldiers, clad in Arab garb and driving a battered civilian car, got into a shootout with Iraqi policemen at a roadblock in the city.

One Iraqi was killed and three injured in the gun battle. The SAS men were seized and beaten by their Iraqi captors. They were handed to a militant militia group. Then there was the public humiliation of the TV cameras.

The insurgents could not have chosen a better time to strike. The senior officer in Iraq was on leave, his deputy a staff officer without the clout to make the big calls. Brigade commander Brigadier John Lorimer – a soldier universally admired as an effective commander – had his hands tied by demands that he refer major command decisions to London.

In the drab corridors of the Ministry of Defence main building, there was panic, but not just about the lives of the men held hostage. Operational command rested with an RAF officer who was allegedly playing golf. His highly-regarded deputy, Major General Peter Wall, was out of the office.

The SAS commander’s request to launch a rescue mission was passed to Northwood. The judgment was that a raid would be both a diplomatic disaster in terms of relations with the Iraqis – but more seriously that launching the raid against Iraqi police who were supposed to be allies would be an admission that the British had lost control of Basra.

As Andy McNab, the SAS hero of the first Gulf War who is now a bestselling author, puts it: ‘There is a very strong feeling from the guys on the ground in Iraq and now in Afghanistan that we have made a mistake by running our wars from 3,000 miles away.’

In Basra, a delegation of officials and diplomats was dispatched to the police station where the men were being held, backed up by troops. They were quickly ambushed by a mob assembled by the militants who armed the crowd with petrol bombs. The scene descended into chaos.

Two Warrior fighting vehicles were swiftly engulfed in flames. One soldier, his uniform ablaze, was forced to throw himself from the hatch of his armoured car and roll on the ground to put out the flames. It became one of the defining images of the Iraq occupation. He was rescued by colleagues and there was a tactical retreat.

Then came rumours that the two hostages were going to be moved. SAS commanders feared their men would disappear and perhaps be executed. As darkness fell, ten armoured vehicles, packed with SAS colleagues, returned. They bulldozed through a 6ft wall to the compound.

The special forces troops fanned out, firing stun grenades while helicopters hovered overhead. They found the men and got them out. No British serviceman was seriously hurt. At some point after the SAS commander gave the green light for the raid, retrospective permission was granted by top brass back home.

But those who were there insist it was well under way before the agreement was given. One SAS source said: ‘The OK was given retrospectively because the operation was a success. But if it had gone wrong they would all have been completely shafted.’

There was a price. In the chaos 100 prisoners escaped and furious Iraqis quickly demanded compensation for the damage caused.

But insiders say the price of inaction for the reputation of the Army would have been higher. Just how serious became clear a day later when the head of the army, General Mike Jackson was told that the senior ranks of the SAS would have resigned if permission had not been granted.

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About englishwarrior

I am and Englishman who is fed up with the way the Government and others treats the people of England

Posted on May 7, 2010, in government, parliament, SAS and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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