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UK Panel: U.S. Troops Too Heavy-Handed 

By ED JOHNSON 
Associated Press Writer 

05/05/05 - - LONDON (AP) - U.S. troops in Iraq are provoking civilians and hampering rebuilding with an excessive use of force, British lawmakers said in a report Tuesday. 

The House Foreign Affairs Committee also found that the slow pace of reconstruction had fueled the insurgency in Iraq and suggested the country had replaced Afghanistan as a training ground for international terrorists. 

``Excessive use by the U.S. forces of overwhelming firepower has also been counterproductive, provoking antagonism toward the coalition among ordinary Iraqis,'' the report said, echoing the concerns of British officials. 

Some have complained that the U.S. military is too heavy-handed in Iraq, compared with British soldiers, who often patrol on foot and in berets instead of helmets in an effort to win the trust of local Iraqis. 

The committee of lawmakers, representing three parties, said foreign fighters had played a leading and deadly role in the insurgency. 

``However, the evidence suggests most of the violence stems from Iraqi groups and individuals, some motivated by religious extremism and others who have been dispossessed by policies adopted by the coalition since the war, such as de-Baathification and the disbanding of the Iraqi security forces,'' the report said. 

The committee said U.S.-led forces had clearly failed to stem the violence and suggested the new Iraqi government should try to negotiate with the insurgents. 

``We conclude that to date the counterinsurgency strategy has not succeeded. This may reflect an overriding focus on a military approach to the detriment of political engagement ... While negotiations with al-Qaida and foreign fighters are out of the question, it might be possible to address some of the Iraqi insurgents' grievances through political negotiations,'' the report added. 

The findings are similar to those of other parliamentary committees that have criticized the coalition's poor post conflict planning in Iraq. 

The committee, which scrutinizes Britain's foreign policy, also was critical of the British government. It said ministers had failed to state clearly whether Britain had used intelligence extracted under torture from suspects in other countries. 

``We find it surprising and unsettling that the government has twice failed to answer our specific question on whether or not the United Kingdom receives or acts upon information extracted under torture by a third country,'' said the report. 

The committee said ministers also should speak out against the detention of terror suspects in Guantanamo Bay and other U.S. facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, where there was a ``lack of due process and oppressive conditions.'' 

Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

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