British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told Parliament Monday of plans to draw down British troops in southern Iraq by half starting in the spring. The resulting number of British forces in Iraq would remain at a level of 2,500 with a primary objective to continue training Iraqi troops and oversee Iraqi operations.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman says the decision to cut British forces in Iraq by half was a thoroughly discussed plan with British officials, Multi-National Force-Iraq commanders and U.S. officials.
“The United Kingdom has been a valuable partner in Iraq, contributing troops, diplomacy, finances and law enforcement expertise,” Whitman said, in a statement. “The prime minister’s announcement of their projected drawdown is something that is well-coordinated with the Multinational Force in Iraq.
“With respect to whether or not any further adjustments need to be made on the ground will depend on whether the Iraqis can pick up the security mission in and around Basra. These are all tactical decisions that the Multinational Force and Multinational Corps commanders will make,” Whitman said.
Addressing concerns on whether the transition of British troops will necessitate a backfill by U.S. troops, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell says that it not expected.
“I don’t think that’s the direction that Multinational Force Iraq commander Army Gen. David H. Petraeus is going in,” Morrell said.
Based around Basra in southern Iraq, Britain has been the second-largest contributor of troops to Operation Iraqi Freedom since the invasion in March 2003. British troops have commanded the Multinational Division Southeast since the start of the war.