Troop withdrawal in Iraq delayed by Basra violence

Gordon Brown's pledge to bring home 1,500 more British troops from Iraq by the spring has been postponed indefinitely because of the deteriorating security situation in Basra.

The Defence Secretary, Des Browne, told MPs yesterday that the UK force in the country would have to be maintained at the current level of 4,100, and the exit timetable might have to be revised. Ministers became convinced that the pullout would have to be halted after last week's offensive by Iraqi security forces against Shia militants in Iraq's second city, he said.

Mr Browne said he would update the Commons on British troop levels later this month. However, senior military sources said the next rotation of troops – in May – would see roughly the same number arrive as they are replacing.

The spring withdrawal promised by Gordon Brown last October, in his first visit to Iraq as Prime Minister, drew accusations of "spin" and was seen as the beginning of a series of political miscalculations. In the same speech, he said he would bring 1,000 soldiers back home by Christmas – after the Defence Secretary had already announced a reduction of 500 several months previously. As it turned out, the Christmas withdrawal was also delayed.

Mr Browne said yesterday: "Further reductions might not be possible at the rate envisaged in the October announcement, although it remains our clear... plan.

"In the light of last week's events, however, it is prudent that we pause any further reductions while the current situation is unfolding. It is absolutely right that military commanders review plans when conditions on the ground change."

British troops left their base in Basra city last September and the Iraqis took over security in December. Mr Browne described the situation as "fluid" and said the level of fighting in the city had fallen. However, the frequency of attacks on the British contingent, now based mainly at the airport, has risen sharply and the Iraqi offensive in Basra is widely seen as a failure.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect