Feb 21, 2007

Britain Trimming Exposure in Iraq

Maybe Blair wants to make sure that his troops aren't sitting ducks in the event that the war expands into Iran.

Tony Blair announced on Wednesday that Britain will cut the number of UK troops stationed in Iraq by about 1,600 – the first time the UK's military presence in the country has been reduced since the 2003 invasion.

Mr Blair told MPs that the current UK contingent in Iraq –- numbering 7,100 troops –- is to come down to 5,500. The reduction in troop numbers will pave the way for Iraqi forces to begin taking control of the city of Basra.

In a statement to the Commons, Mr Blair presented the reduction in troop numbers as an initially modest move that does not undermine the UK's fighting capability.

However, Mr Blair also said that a large part of the UK military in and around Basra will now start to return to barracks, acting as a potential back-up force for the Iraqi military as it begins to take full control of Basra. ...

For Mr Blair, in his final months as prime minister, Wednesday's announcement is highly symbolic. After being dogged by the debacle in Iraq for nearly four years, Wednesday's statement allows him to leave office conveying the impression – albeit a limited one – that the UK intervention has had some success.

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