Colonel Jorge Mendonca, exonerated at a court martial over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, today launches a devastating attack on Tony Blair and his government.
The decorated officer – who quit the Army in disgust at his treatment – accuses Mr Blair of sending UK troops to occupy Basra after the Iraq invasion “with exactly the sort of half-baked plan that gets soldiers killed”.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Mail, he pours scorn on the former prime minister’s naivety in “sweeping in on America’s coat-tails” with no clear strategy or adequate funding for British forces to rebuild the war-torn south of Iraq.
Work to re-equip UK and US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan has helped profits to soar at defence group BAE Systems.
The UK’s largest defence firm, BAE made a pre-tax profit of £657m ($1.4bn), compared with £378m a year earlier.
BAE said the “high tempo” of UK and US military operations was increasing demand for land systems to support armed forces overseas.
BAE, which is facing an anti-corruption probe by US authorities, saw its half-year revenues rise by 10%.
The firm said its sales had benefited from its US operations, which achieved organic sales growth of 12% during the period.
Overall sales at BAE’s Land & Armaments business, which includes everything from tanks to munitions, rose 43%.
Britain’s frontline forces are facing a manning shortfall which exceeds the total number of troops deployed to Afghanistan, an influential House of Commons watchdog body warned today.
The Public Accounts Committee said the armed services were currently 5850 men and women short of full strength, and that the damage of repeated tours of duty to family life had reached crisis point for many.
There are 5700 service personnel in Afghanistan, where they endure daily attacks from Taliban insurgents. Two were killed at the weekend, bringing the number who have died there since 2001 to 63.
The committee’s report on recruitment and retention said bluntly that there were too few soldiers, sailors and airmen to meet the demands of simultaneous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Frequent overseas deployments, heavier workloads and the problem of balancing service and family life were among the main reasons for a leaving rate which had hit a 10-year peak.
A former commander of the SAS has been accused of endangering the lives of British troops by agreeing that Iraqis should resist the “invaders” of their country.
Gen Sir Michael Rose also said it was time for America and Britain to “admit defeat” in Iraq and to bring the troops home to avoid further casualties.
In a debate on BBC 2’s Newsnight the officer, who commanded the international force in Bosnia, was asked if he thought the insurgents were “right” to remove American forces from Iraq. He said: “Yes I do”.
The general compared the Iraqi insurgency to that of George Washington’s forces in the American War of Independence.
The majority of Army officers have considered resigning because of continuous operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a Ministry of Defence survey has admitted.
Two-thirds of officers and 40 per cent of other ranks questioned said constant operations had fuelled their intention to quit the Army.
With six-month long tours, which require at least six months hard training beforehand, little time is left for troops to spend with their families. There are 14,000 troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The costs of military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq have risen by 42% and 16% respectively since November, the Defence Select Committee said.
The bill for the Afghanistan campaign in 2006-7 is now expected to be £770 million, compared to £540 million in the Government’s Winter Supplementary Estimates.
The UK taxpayer is due to spend £1.2 billion over the same period in Iraq, up from £860 million.
The report found that some of the extra costs were due to expenses such as the new operational bonus for troops, which have been included in the figures for the first time.
However, even taking those extras into account, the forecast costs have risen by more than 10% for Iraq and almost a third for Afghanistan, according to the MPs.
Tony Blair and his government “exercised spin” in exaggerating the case for the war in Iraq, the former United Nations chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, said in an interview broadcast today.
Describing the conflict as “clearly illegal”, Mr Blix, who led the UN search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq until June 2003, refused to specifically accuse the prime minister of open deceit.
However, he said pre-war intelligence such as the UK government dossier which claimed Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and could deploy some within 45 minutes, appeared to have deliberately overstated the case for war.
“I would never dare to accuse any statesman of bad faith unless I had absolute evidence of it. I do think they exercised spin,” Mr Blix told Sky News.