Brown paves way for troop cuts in Iraq

Gordon Brown prepared the way today for significant troop cuts in Iraq next year as British forces finish their work training the Iraqi army.





In a Commons statement on the final day of the parliamentary session before MPs break for the summer, the Prime Minister said he expected to see a "fundamental change" in the British mission in the early months of 2009.



Officials said details of any draw down of British forces would have to await a statement by Defence Secretary Des Browne in the autumn when the next six-monthly troop rotation is due to be announced.



However Mr Brown's upbeat assessment of the situation underlined the hope among military chiefs that the pressure on the forces - engaged on two fronts in Iraq and Afghanistan - can soon be eased.



The Prime Minister said that the security situation in Basra had been "transformed" by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Operation Charge of the Knights against the militias in the city last March.



At the same time, the main combat training phase of the Iraqi Army 14th Division was expected to be completed around the turn of the year and British commanders believe that the division will be fully trained by the early months of 2009.



The improved security situation also means local government elections should be able to take place before the end of the year while the Basra Development Commission - co-chaired by British businessman Michael Wareing - is expected to publish its plan for the economic reconstruction of the city in the autumn.



Mr Brown said military commanders were now confident that they would finally be able to hand over control of Basra Airport - where the 4,100-strong British force is based - by the end of the year.



"As we complete these tasks - and as progress continues across these different areas - we will continue to reduce the number of British troops in Iraq," he told MPs.



"Of course, future decisions will be based - as I have always said - on the advice of our military commanders on the ground.



"But just as last year we moved from combat to 'overwatch', we would expect a further fundamental change of mission in the first months of 2009."



Mr Brown came under fire from Tory leader David Cameron, who attacked him for announcing last October that the British force would be cut to 2,500 from the spring of this year.



"These are not abstract numbers, these are not abstract announcements, these are people with families and responsibilities who are already coping with the consequence of overstretch and they deserve the very best treatment, not spinning over numbers and announcements," he said.



The Prime Minister said that their had been a "pause" in the troop withdrawals so that they could support Operation Charge of the Knights and he accused Mr Cameron of trying to make "political capital" out of the situation.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telemarketers / Sales - Home Based - OTE £23,500

£19500 - £23500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced B2B Telemarketer wa...

Recruitment Genius: Showroom Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This global company are looking for two Showro...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor