Inadequate plans for Iraq aftermath paved the way for 'bloody anarchy'
Ex-PSNI Assistant Chief Constable delivers devastating verdict on conflict as former Prime Minister sticks to guns in face of mounting personal criticisms
The invasion of Iraq in 2003 set the stage for lasting "bloody anarchy", according to a former senior PSNI officer who served as a police advisor in the country.
Former Assistant Chief Constable Stephen White said plans for the aftermath of the operation lacked "visible leadership" and branded the affair a "demoralising time".
In a scathing analysis earlier this week, the Chilcot report said the Government had made wholly inadequate plans for running the country after the removal of Saddam Hussein.
Speaking to the BBC yesterday, Mr White backed that summary and said the lack of stability created an extremely dangerous environment in the country.
"Based on my years of Northern Ireland experience, when an occupying force - which we were - does not maintain law and order, gangs and organised crime start to flourish and then sectarian militias take over.
"That leads to inter-community strife, which leads to very extreme organisations [growing].
"The seeds were being sown for a bloody anarchy, which is still in that region, in Iraq and in the neighbouring countries."
Mr White claimed that he had been led to believe he would work with a police force of 1,500 officers. He was horrified when he found the actual number was much closer to 15.
Despite repeatedly raising concerns, his requests for more resources and greater leadership were looked upon as "inconvenient truths", he said.
Mr White first gave evidence to the Iraq Inquiry in 2010. At the time, he said he went to the country "as a willing and dedicated professional", but now reflected on his time there with "sadness and much frustration".
The former Assistant Chief Constable committed himself to a two to three-year posting in Basra, but felt he had no choice but to leave after just six months. "I truly believe that there was a wasted opportunity soon after the removal of Saddam Hussein and his regime for the West and in particular UK policing to provide much needed support to the liberated country," he said.
"I believe the contribution and efforts of a few highly committed individuals were prevented from making more significant differences during my time there."
In the long-awaited Chilcot report this week, Tony Blair's decision to invade Iraq was damned as being based on flawed intelligence, with the legal basis for invading "far from satisfactory".
Agreeing with Mr White's complaints, Sir John Chilcot said the security arrangements for the aftermath of the invasion meant British troops would have to oversee a long occupation.
"It is now clear that policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments," Sir John said. "They were not challenged, and they should have been."
One of the most senior Army officers serving in Iraq at the time told the Belfast Telegraph this week that the former Prime Minister was "drunk on his own self-importance" when he sought the invasion.
Colonel Tim Collins said that Blair's successes in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and in overseeing the Good Friday Agreement meant "he genuinely believed he could do no wrong".
"There was a plan for the invasion, but no plan for the aftermath," he explained. "That was unclear at the time. We simply assumed there would be a plan.
Mr Collins added that he was "astonished such a thing could happen in the modern world".