Blair warned of overstretch in post-invasion Iraq

The Inquiry has published two new declassified documents today, relating to this morning’s session on MoD resources. One is a small section of a letter sent jointly from Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon to Tony Blair on 19 March 2003 (a day before the invasion) on the issue of “Iraq: UK military Contribution to post-conflict Iraq”. The published section of the letter says:

“It will be necessary to draw down our current commitment to nearer a third by no later than autumn in order to avoid long-term damage to the armed forces. Keeping more forces in Iraq would be outside our current defence planning assumptions. If ministers wanted us to, we would need decisions now so that we would be able to recommend what would have to give elsewhere. Scaling down to nearer a third will limit our contribution thereafter to a maximum of around one brigade, a two-star headquarters and possible a contribution to higher level command and control, air and maritime components and support enablers. Our view is that we should probably agree now to tell the US, for planning purposes, that this is the upper limit of our contribution.”

The other document is a review of MoD cash management arrangements, carried out by consultants in October/November 2003.

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