Tuesday, March 31, 2009

U.K. Military Transfers Command of Basra to U.S. - Wall Street Journal

The British military transferred over coalition command of the oil-rich southern province of Basra to the U.S. on Tuesday. It was the latest step toward the withdrawal of the remaining 4,100 British troops from Iraq by midsummer.

The British troops will be withdrawn in phases, with combat operations due to end at the end of May and all but about 400 troops withdrawn by the end of July. Those staying behind will be involved in training Iraqis, according to the British Ministry of Defense.

"As the Iraq people continue to stand on their own, we will support them and we will stand together shoulder-to-shoulder united against our common enemies and committed to peace and prosperity," the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, said at a ceremony to mark the Basra handover.

Britain, which had been a staunch U.S. ally since the March 2003 invasion, handed over security responsibilities in Basra to the Iraqis late last year but continued to maintain its presence on a base at the airport outside the city.

The British military has reported 179 deaths since the war started.
Iraq's deputy chief of staff for armed forces Lt. Gen. Naseer al-Ebadi thanked the British forces for training and equipping the Iraqis and said his forces were ready to take over. "Iraqi security forces are capable of maintaining order and security," he said.

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