London: Prime Minister Gordon Brown was due to detail Britain’s withdrawal from Iraq today during an address lawmakers after a one-day visit with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad and UK troops in the country’s south.
Following talks yesterday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Brown said that his country’s troops will end a six-year mission by 31 May, 2009, and withdraw completely from their base in southern Iraq by July.
Britain has around 4,000 troops stationed mainly at a camp close to an airport in the southern city of Basra, Iraq’s second largest urban center. The UK provided the second-largest military presence in Iraq after the US.
“The role played by the UK combat forces is drawing to a close,” Brown said in Baghdad. “These forces will have completed their tasks in the first half of 2009 and will then leave Iraq,”
US troops will take over Britain’s base once UK forces leave, sending soldiers to Basra to secure supply lines which pass through southern Iraq from Kuwait.
Several hundred British soldiers are likely to remain in Iraq to continue work to train Iraqi army officers.
Brown’s office said he would set out detailed plans to lawmakers in an address to the House of Commons today.
Opposition lawmakers said they will now press Brown to hold a full public inquiry to examine mistakes made in the run up to the US-led 2003 invasion and errors in postwar planning.
“Now that we know our troops are being withdrawn there is no excuse not to have the inquiry into the Iraq war that we have demanded,” said opposition Conservative Party lawmaker Liam Fox. “We need to learn the lessons from Iraq so that we do no repeat the mistakes in places such as Afghanistan”.
Brown has said previously that his government would hold an inquiry but not until Britain’s troops had left Iraq.