In a story filed Mar. 3, the Sunday Telegraph reported that "All British and United States troops serving in Iraq will be withdrawn within a year in an effort to bring peace and stability to the country." -- Telegraph defense correspondent Sean Rayment quoted "a senior defense source directly involved in the planning" in Britain, who said the U.K. "the driving source behind the scheme. -- According to the Telegraph, London and Washington have accepted that "the presence of the coalition, mainly composed of British and U.S. troops, is now seen as the main obstacle to peace." (UFPPC arrived at this perspicacious insight some 23 months ago.) -- The Telegraph said that "[t]he early spring of next year" has been identified as the best time for "the start of the complex and dangerous operation," in which "the bulk of British and American forces, who make up 138,000 of the coalition's 153,000 troops, would be withdrawn simultaneously." -- In the next few months, coalition forces "will withdraw to their bases, where they will in effect become a garrison force to be deployed only in emergency." -- The Sunday Telegraph report does not report the down side of this apparently good news: In all likelihood such a withdrawal would be accompanied by an escalation of the air war against the Iraqi resistance, with coalition forces supporting Iraqi Defense Force operations with strikes that are certain to cause large numbers of civilian deaths....
ALL BRITISH SOLDIERS TO BE OUT OF IRAQ IN 12 MONTHS
By Sean Rayment
March 3, 2006
All British and United States troops serving in Iraq will be withdrawn within a year in an effort to bring peace and stability to the country.
The news came as defense chiefs admitted privately that the British troop commitment in Afghanistan may last for up to 10 years.
The planned pull-out from Iraq follows the acceptance by London and Washington that the presence of the coalition, mainly composed of British and U.S. troops, is now seen as the main obstacle to peace.
According to a senior defense source directly involved in planning the withdrawal, Britain is the driving force behind the scheme. The early spring of next year has been identified as the optimum time for the start of the complex and dangerous operation.
The source explained that troop numbers were expected to decrease slightly over the next 12 months but that the bulk of British and American forces, who make up 138,000 of the coalition's 153,000 troops, would be withdrawn simultaneously.
The British and American military had hoped to begin removing their forces from Iraq this year but those plans were shelved because of worsening security and the failure of both Sunni and Shia leaders to form a government of national unity.
The source added that the British Army had still not recovered -- in terms of training and intervals between operational tours -- from the war in Iraq almost three years ago.
In recent months, both the U.S. and British governments have both come under sustained pressure to name a date when the coalition will begin the withdrawal of forces.
President George W. Bush's popularity is at an all-time low in opinion polls and the Iraq war has so far cost the American taxpayer £150 billion. U.S. forces have sustained more than 18,000 casualties; 2,297 servicemen have been killed.
The cost to the British Government is estimated at £3 billion and 103 servicemen have died on operations.
The Sunday Telegraph understands that coalition forces, comprising troops from 24 countries, will begin to reduce their presence on the ground markedly over the next few months.
They will withdraw to their bases, where they will in effect become a garrison force to be deployed only in emergency.
British Armed Forces are also expected to hand over control of the notoriously dangerous Maysan province, where two soldiers were killed in a bomb attack last week, and the more peaceful al-Muthanna province, in the next few months.
Eventual responsibility for day-to-day security in Iraq will be taken over by the Iraqi Defense Force, which now numbers more than 232,000 police officers and soldiers.
One of the factors in the debate over withdrawal from Iraq has been the impetus of the looming long-term task in Afghanistan, Operation Herrick, which will see the deployment of a further 3,500 British troops.
The source said: "Our presence [in Iraq] is now part of the problem. That is a situation which is now accepted by both governments. We are viewed as an occupation force even though, at the moment, we are in Iraq at the invitation of the government.
"Every time we go out on patrol we run the risk of drawing fire and taking unnecessary casualties. The security situation will not improve in the short term, whether we are in Iraq or not."
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense said there was no fixed date for a withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq.