Gas Week

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Locals see British forces as ‘defeated’ in Basra, not ‘withdrawing’, says ICG Iraq analysis

Posted by gasweek on 20 September, 2007

Britain had 45,000 troops in Iraq during the invasion and a peak of 18,000 in the occupation, reported The Australian (4/9/2007, p.13).

Forces step back: Former prime minister Tony Blair reduced the British presence from 7,000 to 5,500 six months ago and this latest redeployment may allow that to go down to 5,000. The British forces were responsbile for four southern provinces and have already handed control of three to Iraqis, with Basra the only province in which the British have not yet stepped back to an overwatch role. Ninety per cent of the British troops moved long ago to the air base, the site of the US and British consulates, but the 550 soldiers who remained at the palace suffered almost daily mortar attacks and supply convoys from the air base faced particular dangers.

Casualties: Forty-one British troops were killed during the Iraqi summer, the highest fatality rate since the war began. A total of 168 British troops have been killed in Iraq. The British Defence Ministry said yesterday that its forces would “retain security responsibility for Basra until we hand over to provincial Iraqi control, which we anticipate in the autumn”, most likely in October or November.

Defeat, not withdrawal: The International Crisis Group, the Brussels-based think tank headed by former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, said locals in Basra believed British forces have been defeated. “Relentless attacks against British forces in effect have driven them off the streets into increasingly secluded compounds,” the group said in June. “Basra’s residents and militamen viewed this not as an orderly withdrawal but as an ignominious defeat.”

The Australian, 4/9/2007, p. 13

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