Basra drawdown April 2009

Op Telic: Remembering The Iraq War Mission

Basra drawdown April 2009

The UK's involvement in the Second Gulf War is known as Operation Telic.

It was the codename for the British military mission in Iraq, beginning in 2003 and officially coming to an end in May 2011.

But in order to understand the second Gulf conflict, you must look back to the First.

Saddam Hussein, Iraq's dictator, invaded Kuwait in 1990 and, in due course, was kicked out of the country by a multi-national coalition.

Hussein was allowed to remain in power in Iraq, albeit under significant sanctions.

Some thought it was a job half done.

Watch: All you need to know about the First Gulf War.

Fast-forward to 2001 and in the wake of the 11 September attacks, the War on Terror was proclaimed by US President George W Bush.

Many hawks within the Bush Jnr White House pushed for an immediate invasion of Iraq, but caution prevailed. A case had to be made.

Was Saddam protecting or colluding with Al Qaeda? It was suggested so.

Did he have weapons of mass destruction? The UK Government, at the time, said so.

UN resolutions were passed, votes in the Commons, and soon US, British, Australian and Polish troops invaded Iraq.

The date was 20 March 2003.

The vast air assets of the allies dealt a serious blow to Iraqi Forces – in particular, their morale.

The presidential palace in Baghdad was the first target.

British Troops Iraq
179 British Armed Forces personnel died serving on Operation Telic between the start of the campaign and July 2009.

The first British objective was Umm Qasr – a port city where troops met stiff resistance.

Then it was on to Iraq’s second-largest city, Basra.

The 7th Armoured Brigade, the Desert Rats, fought their way in, constantly harried by Iraqi regular troops and Fedayeen militia.

Joining them was 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment.

The city of Basra was reached after two weeks of fierce fighting, including the biggest tank battle by UK forces since the Second World War.

Meanwhile, US-led forces further north met little organised resistance and quickly arrived at the Iraqi capital.

It was all over in weeks, with 'job done' being declared on 1 May 2003.

Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair addressed British Forces in Iraq, saying: "When people look back on this time and look back on this conflict, I honestly believe they will see this as one of the defining moments of our century.

"And you did it."

British troops now had to patrol the ground they had captured and BFBS reporters joined them.

Shortly after the war, troops from 1st Battalion The Black Watch began patrolling without body armour, wearing their traditional Tam O'Shanter headdress.

The locals were declared friendly and the area was described as safe. That didn't last.

Watch: Tony Blair reflects on the Iraq War.

Six members of the Royal Military Police were killed by an angry mob in Majar al-Kabir.

And as the mission stretched to months and then years, the British grip on the city faltered.

In 2005, nine airmen and one soldier were killed when an RAF Hercules was shot down by insurgents.

Mobs attacked UK tanks, while roadside bombs left many dead or maimed.

In 2009, combat operations in Iraq came to an end, with a ceremony being held in Basra, before the official withdrawal and end of Op Telic was confirmed in May 2011.

However, the fallout from the Iraq War has continued in the years since.

2016's Chilcot Report concluded that the legal basis for the war was "far from satisfactory".

The report found Britain chose to join the US-led invasion before "peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted".

Some 179 British Armed Forces personnel died serving on Telic between the start of the campaign and July 2009.

What's the Iraq situation today?

Iraq remains turbulent and unstable at best. At worst, it has become a haven for so-called Islamic State (IS).

Watch: The UK continues to have a presence in Iraq, including in the skies as part of Operation Shader.

Operation Shader, the UK's contribution to the US-led mission against IS, started in 2014 with combat sorties flown by the RAF.

It has been just over two years since former US President Donald Trump claimed IS's hold on territory in Syria had been "100%" eliminated.

However, a report published in December last year said IS was still "driving" the UK's terror threat.

And earlier this month, Air Commodore Simon Strasdin, UK Air Component Commander to the Middle East, told Forces News IS has "nowhere to hide" after RAF strikes against IS.

The strikes came after the RAF helped to clear an IS stronghold in northern Iraq in March.

UK troops are also in the country to help train Iraqi forces.

In January, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) announced it would increase the number of British troops providing training to forces in Iraq.

It came after NATO decided to send roughly 3,500 extra troops to Iraq to boost its counter-terrorism training mission in the country.

Prior to the personnel increase, the UK's contribution to training on the ground in Iraq, as part of a global coalition and separate to the NATO mission, is about 100 soldiers.

Cover image: British Army trainers and Iraqi security forces personnel in Besmaya range Iraq (Picture: US Department of Defense).