All But Gone

From Holden:

The Brits are ready to pull their forces from Iraq.

The Army plans to withdraw 1200 soldiers from three of the four southern Iraqi provinces under its control this year to free up scarce manpower and air transport resources for the UK’s new Afghan deployment.

Military sources say the main Basra garrison will also be reduced from 5600 but that the numbers involved will be dictated by the security situation and the establishment of a stable regime in Baghdad.

The three-year occupation of the south has so far cost 103 British lives and £3 billion. Hundreds of troops have also been wounded, the vast majority since the official end of hostilities in May, 2003.

Sources say most of the 8600 UK soldiers will be pulled out by next spring. A token garrison could remain to keep a foothold in the region if the Iraqi government agrees to their continued presence.