Sidelined British soldiers were 'itching to join' US fight for Basra, says brigadier

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London, Aug.7 : British troops deployed at the airport outside Basra when American units and thousands of Iraqi reinforcements arrived in March to launch an attack on Shia extremists in the city were itching to join in, but were prevented from doing so.

The Times quoted Brigadier Julian Free, the commander of 4 Mechanised Brigade, as saying that the troops wanted to be a part of the operation "to help the Iraqis", but an order from Defence Secretary Des Browne stopped them from moving in.

British military instructors were only allowed to work alongside the Iraqi troops in Basra several days after the Baghdad-sponsored Operation Charge of the Knights began.

Brigadier Free's comments reflected the view of Lieutenant Colonel Chuck Western, one of the American commanders sent to Basra in March, who told The Times that the British appeared to be desperate to get into the city.

Brigadier Free spoke to The Times after stories in the paper in which American commanders claimed that, because of the deal with al-Mahdi Army Shia militia, British troops could not go into Basra when Operation Charge of the Knights was launched.

The MoD has insisted that the deal was a separate issue and did not prevent troops from returning to Basra if required.

The Americans and Iraqis started fighting al-Mahdi Army on Monday, March 24. Brigadier Free managed to insert about 100 British trainers into the city by the end of that week. He admitted that it was a nervous time when the first British troops went back into Basra, but said that the atmosphere was fantastic once the operation was under way.

ANI

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