§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon)
Real progress has been made in Iraq over the last few months. Coalition forces continue to support Iraqi leaders both nationally and at the local level. Political progress has been made, with the increasing effectiveness of the Iraqi Governing Council and the recent appointment of Iraqi departmental Ministers. We now seek to accelerate progress in other areas, including enhanced security across the country, and the reliable provision of basic utilities.
In the light of the evolving security situation in Iraq and the increasing military tasks arising out of the reconstruction efforts in the south of the country, the UK Divisional Commander in theatre has been conducting a formal review of UK forces and resources in Iraq. While the full scale of the requirement, which will be largely driven by initiatives of the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Department for International Development (DFID) to accelerate reconstruction activities in Iraq, has yet to be fully developed, there is an immediate requirement for two battalions and some additional specialist personnel, vehicles and equipment to allow him to fulfil the expanding range of tasks for UK forces in Multinational Division (South East) (MND(SE)).
Accordingly, we are deploying to Iraq the balance of 2nd Battalion The Light Infantry a company of which is already in theatre. This battalion will be involved in supporting current operations, and in offering additional protection to the Coalition Provisional Authority. They are currently based in Cyprus and were already identified as an "Over the Horizon Reserve" for Iraq. Their role in Cyprus will be filled by two batteries from 16 Regiment Royal Artillery.
In addition, 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets (1 RGJ) will deploy to Iraq immediately supported by some specialist personnel and equipment. This deployment will enable MND(SE) to increase force protection, accelerate training of the Iraqi Civil Defence Corps and to improve our information gathering capability in MND(SE). 1 RGJ are currently designated the Spearhead Land Element, are already at high readiness, and are therefore the most appropriate unit to call upon. They will be replaced as Spearhead Land Element by 42 Commando Royal Marines.
We plan to maintain the deployment of these units until around November, providing an interim additional capability to our commanders in theatre. Additional units would deploy to replace them in theatre if the requirement remained. We plan for some of the roles progressively to be conducted by Iraqi personnel.
In addition to the requirements that we have already fully identified, we anticipate additional tasks in the near future which will require military resources, in particular the provision of military support to critical infrastructure work planned by CPA(S) and DFID. This work will deliver a more stable power supply, improve fuel availability and significantly improve the delivery of water services to all sectors of the population in the MND(SE) area. The military capabilities needed will be identified as the detail of the plan's 3WS implementation takes shape. We will immediately take steps to identify and reduce notice to move for some additional headquarters and units, to allow further deployments as rapidly as possible in response to this accelerating programme of work.
These measures will give extra capabilities to our commanders in theatre, allowing them to increase their proactive efforts to improve wider security across the region, and allowing them to support the essential reconstruction and regeneration efforts in their area of operations. The commitment of the United Kingdom and its Armed Forces to Iraq remains undeterred by recent events. We are determined to help the Iraqi people to forge a new, peaceful and secure future for themselves and we will meet this commitment with appropriate forces in Iraq for as long as required, and no longer.