Nicholas Watt, political editorSunday June 17, 2007
Tony Blair agreed to commit British troops to battle in Iraq in the full knowledge that Washington had failed to make adequate preparations for the postwar reconstruction of the country.
In a devastating account of the chaotic preparations for the war, which comes as Blair enters his final full week in Downing Street, key No 10 aides and friends of Blair have revealed the Prime Minister repeatedly and unsuccessfully raised his concerns with the White House. He also agreed to commit troops to the conflict even though President George Bush had personally said Britain could help ‘some other way’.
….Sir David Manning, now Britain’s ambassador to Washington, says: ‘It’s hard to know exactly what happened over the post-war planning. I can only say that I remember the PM raising this many months before the war began. He was very exercised about it.’
Manning reveals that Blair was so concerned that he sent him to Washington in March 2002, a full year before the invasion. Manning recalls: ‘The difficulties the Prime Minister had in mind were particularly, how difficult was this operation going to be? If they did decide to intervene, what would it be like on the ground? How would you do it? What would the reaction be if you did it, what would happen on the morning after? ‘All these issues needed to be thrashed out. It wasn’t to say that they weren’t thinking about them, but I didn’t see the evidence at that stage that these things had been thoroughly rehearsed and thoroughly thought through.’
On his return to London, Manning wrote a highly-critical secret memo to Blair. ‘I think there is a real risk that the [Bush] administration underestimates the difficulties,’ it said. ‘They may agree that failure isn’t an option, but this does not mean that they will avoid it.’