The Telgraph, a British newspaper earlier reported that both American and British troops were to leave Iraq by next year. A new report by The Telegraph indicates the British troops are to now exit the country by Summer of 2008.
Ed: Articles in full below
All British soldiers to be out of Iraq in 12 months
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
All British and United States troops serving in Iraq will be withdrawn within a year in an effort to bring peace and stability to the country.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 defence 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 US troops, is now seen as the main obstacle to peace.
According to a senior defence 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but that the bulk of British and American forces, who make up 138,000 of the coalition’s 153,000 troops, would be withdrawn simultaneously.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 US 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. US 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 Defence 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 Defence said there was no fixed date for a withdrawal of coalition forces from Iraq.
British troops out of Iraq in two years, says general
By Oliver Poole in Baghdad
Most British troops should have been withdrawn from Iraq by the summer of 2008 under a phased plan disclosed to The Daily Telegraph yesterday by the most senior Army officer in Baghdad.
The first movements could come within weeks, said Lt Gen Nick Houghton.
He detailed the timetable to end months of speculation over when the first of Britain’s 8,000 contingent will be brought home.
The process will involve a four-stage disengagement that is scheduled to begin this spring, or at the latest by the end of the summer.
The intention is to achieve a smooth hand-over of authority to Iraqi forces in four provinces under British control, while preserving the capacity to reinstate troops quickly.
Although Gen Houghton said the withdrawal was prompted by confidence that Iraq’s 225,000 soldiers and police officers could soon maintain order without assistance, the news was seen by hard-line Shia and Sunni groups as a victory for their resistance to the “occupiers”.
The Baghdad spokesman of Moqtada al-Sadr, the militant cleric whose followers have repeatedly fought British troops, said their departure was “our aim and our goal”.
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