Monday, August 20, 2007


British officers urging U.K. PM to withdraw forces from Basra

(Telegraph) - British forces will face an "embarrassing and ugly retreat" if they pull out of Iraq too quickly, an adviser to the American president was reported as saying. But it was also reported that senior British officers are urging the Prime Minister to pull out the 5,500 troops without delay because there was "nothing more" they could achieve in Basra.
Stephen Biddle, an American academic and military adviser to President George W Bush, said when British troops pull out from their last barracks in Basra in the coming months it will be "a hard withdrawal". Rogue Shia militias, backed by Iran, were using multiple ambushes and bombings to create the impression that they were forcing Britain out of Basra.
"They want the image of a British defeat - it will be ugly and embarrassing," Mr Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council for Foreign Relations, told the Sunday Times. While Gordon Brown is thought to have wanted a rapid withdrawal he will now wait until at least after the American commander in Iraq, Gen David Petraeus, has reported to Congress on the success of the US "surge" on Sept 15.
At the Camp David meeting with President Bush, Gordon Brown said "we have duties to discharge and responsibilities to keep". But Army generals have advised the Prime Minister that "we have done what we can" in Basra and it was time to hand over control to the Iraqis, the Independent on Sunday reported. While commanders estimate that an orderly British withdrawal could cost between 10 and 15 dead, it was necessary for the Army's capability to remain "reasonably intact".
However, there are deep concerns among American commanders that a hasty British retreat would leave southern Iraq open to domination from Iranian-backed Shia militias who would also control its vast oil wealth. The CIA is also keen to keep a foothold in Basra where they can monitor the insurgents and Iran. Mr Brown said he would make a full statement on the Iraq situation when Parliament sits again in October. In the coming weeks the British mission will drop by 500 troops to 5,500 but could fall significantly next year.

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