British troops in Iraq to be halved if success continues: report

October 26th, 2006  
Team Infidel

Topic: British troops in Iraq to be halved if success continues: report

Media: AFP
Byline: n/a
Date: 26 October 2006

LONDON, Oct 26, 2006 (AFP) - The number of British troops in Iraq may be
halved early next year if apparent military successes in the country
continue at their current rate, The Daily Telegraph reported on Thursday.

Citing senior British army officers and a senior American defence official,
the newspaper said that the plan is contingent on Operation Sinbad, a
several-month long attempt announced about a month ago to restore security
and rebuild the troubled southern port city of Basra, continuing to succeed.

Britain has about 7,200 troops deployed in Iraq, but that number will be cut
to 3,500 if Operation Sinbad continues to go well, the newspaper reported.

"If Operation Sinbad goes as well as it has done, then we can expect to
substantially decrease our force by February at the earliest," the newspaper
quoted an unnamed senior British official based in Basra as saying.

"There is a real sense that we are just short of that tipping point. If we
can just push it over the edge everything will fall in a particular way."

The newspaper also said that an unidentified senior American defence
department official in Washington had said that British officials had told
their US counterparts that they wanted to withdraw the majority of their
troops in Iraq within a year so they could concentrate their attention on

The American official told the newspaper that British officials had said
that their military was "near to breaking point" due to long deployments in

The report follows comments from British Prime Minister Tony Blair on
Wednesday, who said the country will not change its strategy in Iraq,
despite mounting calls in the face of spiraling sectarian violence and
casualties within the US-led coalition.

"Let me make one thing absolutely and abundantly clear -- there will be no
change in the strategy of withdrawal from Iraq. (It will only happen) when
the Iraqi forces are confident that they can handle security," he told

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