/ 8 October 2007

UK to cut Iraq troops to 2 500 by early 2008

Britain is to cut the number of its troops in Iraq to 2 500 by next spring, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday, in a long-expected statement.

”We plan for next spring to reduce force numbers in southern Iraq to a figure of 2 500,” he told parliament’s lower House of Commons.

Brown announced on a visit to Baghdad last week that there would 1 000 fewer troops in Iraq by the end of the year, taking troop numbers down to 4 500.

He said on Monday that the reduction down to 4 500 would come immediately after Britain hands over control of Basra Province in southern Iraq to the Iraqi forces in the next two months.

Brown outlined ”two distinct stages” to the handover: the first would see British forces training and mentoring Iraqi security forces, securing supply routes, protecting the Iraq-Iran border and providing back-up to local troops.

In the second, he said British forces would retain a more limited ability to intervene by force with the main focus on training. — AFP