As it leaves Iraq, Britain looks warily to Afghanistan
British politicians called for an investigation into intelligence mistakes that led the country into the Iraq war.
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Shortly after the handover and a memorial ceremony for the 179 British soldiers who died in Iraq, British politicians began calling for a full inquiry into the mistakes and faulty decisionmaking that led the UK into the war. Among other issues, the investigation will examine inaccurate intelligence that wrongly cited the presence of weapons of mass destruction, as well as whether the military properly equipped its forces, reports the Daily Telegraph.
"After years of foot dragging, I believe it is the time for the government to announce a proper Franks-style inquiry. Instead of starting in many months' time, it should start right now," said Tory leader David Cameron, according to the Telegraph, referencing the investigation by Lord Franks after the Falklands War in 1982. "There are vital lessons to learn and we need to learn them rapidly and the only justification for delay can, I'm afraid, be a political one."
While the UK grapples with whether their involvement in Iraq was necessary or misguided, an editorial in The Scotsman argues Britain's Labour Party is likely to bear the heaviest burden as a result of the conflict. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, a Labour Party member, aligned with President Bush at the onset of the war and is largely blamed for dragging the nation to war.
A political cartoon in The Guardian showed already mounting concerns that the nation is shifting its focus from Iraq to Afghanistan.
The Wall Street Journal, however, reports that the UK may find it difficult to take on too great a role in Afghanistan, as its military is contracting in both size and budget. Since 1997, the number of personnel in the British military has been reduced by 20 percent to about 200,000, and military spending accounts for only 2.8 percent of the nation's gross domestic product, while it accounts for 5 percent of American GDP.
"Facing a dour economy and staggering government debt, the UK is widely expected to shrink its military power further still, despite criticism at home that the forces are so poorly funded they're ill-equipped for the roles they're asked to play," reports The Wall Street Journal. "Such cuts are sapping strength from US-backed military efforts in places like Afghanistan."