22/08/2006

Britain 'could halve Iraq troops'

Britain may reduce the number of troops in Iraq by around half, after handing over control in Basra to Iraqis within the next nine months, a senior British commander has said.

The commander, who was not named, told reporters that the move would leave between 3,000 and 4,000 British troops in the south of the country.

He said that the handover could take place in the first quarter of 2007, depending on the tactical plan and competence of the Iraqi army. However, he said that it was "perfectly feasible" that the handover could take place.

The commander told reporters that it would leave "quite significantly smaller force than we've got now but probably in the region of 3,000 to 4,000 people based in a single location".

There are currently over 7,000 British troops in the south of Iraq, mainly in the Basra area.

Last month, British forces handed over responsibility for al Muthanna - one of the four provinces they were responsible in the region.

(KMcA)

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