Friday, November 7, 2008

Troops could leave Iraq by next summer

British troops could withdraw from Iraq as early as next summer with the Iraqi government calling for foreign forces to leave the country.

The situation in Basra where British forces have been based has radically changed since the Iraqi government has taken on local insurgents this year.

International development secretary Douglas Alexander hinted British forces could be removed soon.

"We'll continue to work closely with the government of Iraq but we will see a significant drawdown of British troops as a recognition of the progress and success that's been enjoyed here in Basra," Sky News quoted him as saying.

"We are looking ahead to the first half of 2009 but our focus on the moment is securing the possibility that I've seen today which is for further jobs, further investment, further prosperity," he added.

The Iraqi government's Charge of the Knights campaign in March to clear militias out of Basra has set the course for change and now Iraqis want to take control.

The process of handing Basra airport and airspace over to the Iraqis will begin over the next few weeks with American forces taking over camp security.

Gordon Brown when questioned on the issue did not speculate about a possible withdrawal next year in this week's prime minister's questions, but said an announcement about a "fundamental" change in the nature of the mission can be expected before the end of this year.

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