British military sources last night voiced growing concerns over the efficiency of the American-led reconstruction operation in Iraq.
In the face of growing hostility from pro-Saddam Hussein militias, one defence source told The Times that the 17,000-strong force of British soldiers in Iraq may have to stay in place for as long as four years.
Major-General Freddy Viggers, the British commander appointed to serve at the US military headquarters in Baghdad, warned that Allied troops would face a long-running struggle unless Saddam Hussein was killed or captured. Unless his Baathist regime was brought to a definitive end, the operation threatened to follow in the footsteps of the Balkans operation, where around 1,600 British troops remain in Bosnia after 11 years, according to General Viggers.
Meanwhile, there were further claims that the American post-war effort was being seriously undermined by incompetence, mismanagement and a shortage of staff. Paul Bremer, the US administrator in Iraq, had "fewer than 600" staff to run the country in which civil infrastructure was on the brink of collapse, a senior British official in Baghdad told The Daily Telegraph.
"This is the single most chaotic organisation I have ever worked for," he said. "The operation is chronically under-resourced and suffers from an almost complete absence of strategic direction."
In a move that indicated escalating concerns about the post-war efforts in Iraq, Tony Blair yesterday appointed one of the Foreign Office's most senior diplomats to work alongside the Americans in Baghdad. Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who has been Britain's UN ambassador for the past five years, vowed to help restore the Iraqi people's control over their country and improve their quality of life. He also urged the Security Council to start discussing how the international community can help bring to justice those responsible for genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity "under a system that works under the control of the Iraqi people".
He said: "This should start with the people of Iraq and what they want by way of justice for their own victimisation by the previous regime."
Sir Jeremy, a fluent Arabic speaker, will serve under Mr Bremer from next September.
© 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd