Defence secretary praises Iraqi forces and their British training
Defence Secretary Des Browne is in Basra, Southern Iraq, today for an update on the progress of the Iraqi Security
Forces and to see the situation for himself.
In the last six months, the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police have made great improvements under the guidance of 1st Battalion
The Irish Guards. On 5th September Iraqi Forces took responsibility for security in Basra City and British troops
officially handed over the Basra Palace base. Since then, the Iraqi Security Forces have proved effective. When tested
by attacks, the Iraqis have responded well and quickly got the situation under control. Violence in Basra has declined
further and Iraq's second largest city is relatively calm - attacks against UK forces have fallen by 90% since July
Mr Browne met the Irish Guards' commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Michael O'Dwyer MBE, to get his view on the
progress of the Iraqi Security Forces being trained by his men.
Des Browne said:
"I am very grateful for the work that the Irish Guards have done in Iraq, training up the Iraqi Security Forces, and
ensuring that increasingly, they are capable of taking responsibility for security in South-East Iraq.
"This work is vitally important and is helping to set the conditions necessary for Multi National Forces to hand over
Basra to Provincial Iraqi Control at the end of this year.
"I have no doubt that this has been a difficult tour at times, but despite the challenges they have faced, The Irish
Guards have performed their role with enormous professionalism and enthusiasm and they should be very proud of what they
At the Iraqi Army's Divisional Training Centre, formerly Britain's Shaiba Logistics Base, South West of Basra City the
Irish Guards are training Iraqi troops in complex tasks such as searching houses, conducting vehicle checkpoints, and
more basic skills like how to shoot. In Baghdad two teams, each of four Irish Guards, are mentoring soldiers of the
Iraqi Army's 10 Division. Normally based in Basra, 10 Division has made such good progress that elements of it have been
deployed to Baghdad to assist in the US-led counter-insurgency operations there.
Lt Col Michael O'Dwyer MBE, Commanding Officer of 1st Battalion The Irish Guards, said:
"During our six months in Basra there has been a significant improvement in the Iraqi Army's capability and the
effectiveness of their people. As the Iraqis have taken a greater role in operations and overall security
responsibility, it has been satisfying to see the difference that my Battle Group and other British troops are making.
Our monitoring, mentoring and training is helping give the Iraqis that ability to look after themselves."
Mr Browne also met Britain's senior commander in Southern Iraq, Major General Graham Binns, and other senior officers
and officials. They discussed the next steps towards Iraq taking full responsibility for Basra Province, and the
strategic position in Southern Iraq following the handover of Basra Palace and British troops' move into an overwatch
After a tough but enormously successful tour of duty the Irish Guards and other units of 1 Mechanised Brigade are due to
return to the UK next month. During his visit, Mr Browne joined British troops for lunch to hear their experiences of
Iraq and thank them personally for their achievements, their sacrifice, and the enormous professionalism of the entire
The task in Southern Iraq will pass next month to 4 Mechanised Brigade, who will continue training and mentoring the
Iraqi Security Forces and stand ready to assist if asked.