First Published: 2006-07-04

 
Blair: Significant troop numbers home from Iraq within 18 months
 

British PM says his forces will remain in Iraq for as long as Iraqi government wishes them to.

 

Middle East Online

Exit strategy unveiled

LONDON - Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday that "significant numbers" of British troops could be withdrawn from Iraq within 18 months.

British forces would remain in the war-shattered country for as long as the Iraqi government wished them to, Blair reiterated before the senior members of Parliament who make up the Commons Liaison Committee.

"I suspect over the next 18 months there will obviously be opportunities to draw down significant numbers of British troops because the capacity of the Iraqi troops will build up," he added.

British and Australian troops in southern Iraq are preparing to leave Muthanna province next month in the first such handover to Iraqi forces.

"What we have discussed in government is how, as progressively the Iraqi forces are more capable of taking over individual provinces, we will withdraw," Blair said.

"If one's talking about substantial troop reductions, I think the Iraqi government are keen to get control of their own security situation."

Britain was the major coalition partner in the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and has 7,200 troops stationed in the south of the country around the second city of Basra.

Challenged on whether the mere presence of British troops in southern Iraq was aggravating the security problems there, Blair agreed that their presence was "used by certain of the groups".

Iraqi troops were deployed in greater numbers on Basra's streets last month amid fears that the city was descending into factional violence.

Asked if British forces needed to reassess their approach in Basra, Blair said: "What you have got is you have got the extremists on both sides. Both of them have got the same aim, to prevent the democratic government having its writ run.

"They may use in Basra the presence of British forces as an excuse but that's not really their aim. Their aim is to get political and security control of Basra so they can run it rather than have the democratic government run it.

"It's a very tough situation there but the important thing is always to say to our own people 'Who are the authentic voice of the Iraqis?' The people they elected will give you the best opinion as to what Iraqis really want."

He added: "What the Iraqis say is yes, we want you to leave as soon as possible, but that possibility is not now."

Blair was speaking during a twice-yearly grilling by the committee on a range of government policy issues.

 

Iraq forces take ISIS last positions in Fallujah

Jordan court charges 21 people with 'terrorism'

Iran conceals heated military standoff in Kurdish region

Sarraj says only united military can defeat ISIS in Libya

Iran cracks down on ‘Western culture’ of canine ownership

Dozens killed as clashes intensify in Yemen

Brexit vote lays bare depth of division across Britain

Young Britons vent anger at grey Brexit vote

Russia planes pound Aleppo as Syria regime forces closes in

Car bomb kills four civilians in Libya's Benghazi

US-backed Syria fighters edge further into ISIS border hub

Tunisia flaunts seaside security to bring back tourists

Britain and EU: A fraught divorce

Libya govt. forces repel ISIS counterattack in Sirte

Oil slides on British referendum result

Crashed EgyptAir black boxes to go to France for repairs

5,000 migrants rescued from rubber dinghies in Mediterranean

Britain votes to break away from EU, PM resigns

Turkey acquits British academic over 'terror propaganda' charges

24 jailed in Bahrain for forming IS cell

Iraq commander says forces control over 80% of Fallujah

Israel sentences 4 Palestinians to life

Turkey in new quest to patch up with regional foes

Defiant Bahrain moves to dissolve opposition bloc

Kurdish-Arab forces push into IS Syria bastion of Manbij

Yemen govt says rebels must withdraw before any transition

Turkey confirms new accession talks with EU

Saudi suspect found dead after gunfight in Shiite town

Suspended Kuwait sues IOC for damages

Erdogan lashes out at EU treatment of Turkey

UN Chief, Saudi prince discuss situation in Yemen

Turkey blocks visit of German delegation to Incirlik air base

Trump goes on blistering offensive against Clinton

EU negotiators endorse new border force proposal

Head of EU parliament hopes to arrange meeting of Israeli, Palestinian leaders

Turkish prosecutors demand 14 years for activists

Final push for votes as EU leaders warn over Brexit

Egypt government appeals court block on islands’ transfer to Saudis

Heat, long fasting days take their toll on Cairo residents

Assad names Imad Khamis as new Prime Minister

Turkey wants Britain to stay in EU 'under any circumstances'

EU to open new membership talks with Turkey

Turkey arrests 3 IS suspects over 'LGBT rally plot'

Yemen rebels say consensus president crucial for peace deal

Fallujah 'almost cleared' of ISIS jihadists