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Iraq Transition

Report: British Army chief calls for Iraq pullout

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- The chief of the British Army has called for a pullout of British troops from Iraq "sometime soon" and said that post-invasion planning for that war was "poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning."

Gen. Richard Dannatt told London's Daily Mail newspaper that he had "more optimism" that "we can get it right in Afghanistan."

Dannatt said that Britain's continued presence in Iraq had made the country less secure.

Britain should "get ourselves out sometime soon because our presence exacerbates security problems," he told the newspaper in an interview published Thursday.

"I don't say that the difficulties we are experiencing round the world are caused by our presence in Iraq, but undoubtedly our presence in Iraq exacerbates them."

Dannatt, who took over as the Army's chief of general staff in August, said that the U.S.-led coalition's plan to establish a democracy in Iraq that would be "exemplar for the region" was unlikely to happen.

"That was the hope, whether that was a sensible or naive hope, history will judge," he said. "I don't think we are going to do that. I think we should aim for a lower ambition."

Dannatt's views directly contradicts the position of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is a staunch supporter of the war and U.S. President George W. Bush's closest ally in the fight.

Blair and Bush both insist that troops must stay in Iraq until Iraqi security forces are able to stand up on their own.

But with the country edging nearer to civil war -- if not already immersed in it -- Dannatt said that the strategy for implementing an Iraqi democracy was ill-prepared.

""I think history will show that the planning for what happened after the initial, successful war-fighting phase was poor, probably based more on optimism than sound planning," he said.

Dannatt said that Britain had essentially overstayed its welcome in Iraq.

"The military campaign we fought in 2003 effectively kicked the door in," he said, noting that was a far cry from being invited into the country.

"Whatever consent we may have had in the first place may have turned to tolerance and has largely turned to intolerance."

U.S. strategy under review

The comments by Gen. Dannatt came as the top U.S. general acknowledged that the U.S. strategy in Iraq was under review.

Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN the overall Iraq strategy was under review, including the linchpin of U.S. exit strategy -- relying on Iraqi forces to take up the fight. (Full story)

"Are those assumptions still valid? If they are OK, then how are we doing in getting to where we are supposed to be going?" Pace said. "If we're getting there, how do we reinforce that? If we're not, what should we change?

Pace's candid comments came a day after Gen. George Casey, the head of U.S. troops in Iraq, met with President Bush, whose Iraq policy is being questioned by key members of his own party.

Pace said he and the other joint chiefs were debriefing commanders just back from the front lines, including one colonel recognized as a rising star and creative thinker -- Col. H.R. McMaster, the author of 1997 book "Dereliction of Duty," considered the seminal work on military's responsibility during Vietnam to confront their civilian bosses when strategy was not working.

Meanwhile, the other key aspect of U.S. strategy -- getting the Shiites and Sunnis to form a "unity government" -- also appears to be unraveling.

Bitter debate is raging between Iraqi politicians over a just-passed law that would allow the creation of semi-autonomous federal regions, something the Sunnis see as a step towards partition, with Kurds getting the North, the Shiites the south and the Sunni isolated without oil in the central part of the country. (Full story)


SPECIAL REPORT

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide

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