UK troops to withdraw from Iraq early next year if polls go off smoothly
London, Nov 21 (ANI): UK commander in Basra Major Gen Andy Salmon has dropped enough hints that British combat troops, nearly 4000 in number, will start withdrawing from Iraq by early next year, shortly after key local elections (in Iraq) held at the end of January.
The British withdrawal from Iraq will come almost exactly six years after the first troops crossed over the Kuwait border in the 2003 invasion. Since then 176 servicemen have lost their lives and up to £10 billion has been spent on the operation and new equipment.
The troops withdrawal will be undertaken under the "Operation Drayton". It will be accelerated if the security situation remained stable following the key provincial elections on Jan 31, reported The Telegraph.
"If we adapt to Iraqi needs then we will avoid outstaying our welcome. Then we will arrive at a mutually agreed position as to when we have met our conditions.
If the election goes well then our job is heading towards being done. We would have completed our tasks - that is a considerable part of the security issue down here resolved, sorted and completed," the paper quoted Maj Salmon as saying.
According to the paper, plans have been drawn up for the British force to be ready to move at 30 days notice when the signal comes from London. The signal date is likely to be beneficial to the Government. The first battalions could leave Iraq by as early as March, military sources disclosed.
Meanwhile, the US hopes that a reduction in British troop numbers in Iraq will allow the Ministry of Defence to send more forces to Afghanistan, Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesman, said.
"Clearly we would welcome more British troops but we are not singling out the Brits more than anyone else. We are sending thousands and thousands more troops and we are always looking to see who can contribute more to the mission in Afghanistan," he said.
During their stay in Iraq, the British troops provided a "vital breathing space" and were able to train the Iraqi army that helped defeat the insurgents in March following a power vacuum after the British withdrew from Basra to the airport five miles away. (ANI)
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