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'Tension between British, US military leaders in Iraq'

world Updated: Nov 23, 2009 08:22 IST

AFP
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Hostility between US and British military leaders in Iraq ran deep, with one describing his US counterparts as "group of Martians," a newspaper reported on Monday, citing leaked government documents.

The top British commander in the country, Major General Andrew Stewart, said "our ability to influence US policy in Iraq seemed to be minimal" in the first year of the conflict, according to documents published by the Daily Telegraph.

Britain's chief of staff in Iraq described as difficult attempts to communicate with senior US military commanders, "a group of Martians" for whom "dialogue is alien," the newspaper said.

"Despite our so-called special relationship,' I reckon we were treated no differently to the Portuguese," the chief of staff, Colonel JK Tanner, said.

The statements were made in official interviews conducted by the Ministry of Defence with army commanders who had just returned from Iraq during the first year of peacekeeping from May 2003 to May 2004.

Transcripts of the interviews, leaked to the newspaper, were revealed one day before an independent inquiry into Britain's role in Iraq begins public hearings on Tuesday, with the aim of learning the lessons from the conflict.

British troops ended their mission in Iraq in July.

The probe will reopen debate over what remains a highly controversial campaign, in which 179 British troops lost their lives.

A leaded army analysis published by the newspaper on Sunday showed Britain had no effective plan for what to do after coalition forces overthrew leader Saddam Hussein following the 2003 invasion.

According to Monday's report, General Stewart bluntly said that "incredibly," there was not even a secure communication link between his headquarters in southern Basra and the US commander in Baghdad.

A US decision to try to capture a key lieutenant of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in a British-run area "was not co-ordinated with us and no-one (was) told that it was going to happen," a commander said.

Colonel Tanner said: "The whole system was appalling. We experienced real difficulty in dealing with American military and civilian organisations who, partly through arrogance and partly through bureaucracy, dictate that there is only one way: the American way."