debkafile: The British troop pull-back from Iraq to be announced in October 2007
This, behind the parade of UK-US concord, was one of the messages Gordon Brown delivered at his first meeting as prime minister with President George W. Bush at Camp David Monday, July 30.
debkafile‘s Washington sources: Gordon Brown scheduled his Commons statement on the (Iraq) situation for October, two weeks after US generals in Iraq submit their report on the prospects of success in Iraq.
General David Petraeus, commander of US forces in Iraq gave advance notice of his recommendations when he said Monday, July 29, that his generals expect to need a large contingent of troops in Iraq until the middle of 2009. “We do think by about that time… I will have enough of a sense … to determine at what point we can in fact begin to send forces home without replacements,” Petraeus said.
Addressing the media after his talks with President Bush, the British premier did not endorse the US president’s assertion that failure in Iraq was not an option because it would embolden al Qaeda and other terrorists and violence would spill out across the region.
He did say that decisions on the handover of security to Iraqi forces would be based on advice “from our generals,” without however quoting their advice.
This advice, according to debkafile‘s military sources, is to draw British forces out of Iraq without further delay. Brown therefore presented Bush with a made decision, one which had been dictated by developments on the ground.
The UK began pulling its troops out of parts of southern Iraq, its area of jurisdiction, in the fall of 2006, so that by now, they no longer control Basra, Iraq’s second largest city. British units have withdrawn to a fortified compound near the city’s international airport. It is surrounded by hostile Shiite insurgents who blast them with mortar fire several times a day.
The rosy picture Brown painted, whereby the British had handed control over four southern provinces to 30,000 Iraqi security and military units in the last few months, is far from reality. The vacant space has been filled with diverse Shiite militias, whether manipulated from Tehran, run by the controversial Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr or independent. British responsibility for Iraq’s oil-rich south and single outlet to the sea has in fact collapsed.
Reporters noted that neither leader, the US president or the new British prime minister, was particularly complimentary about the other after their first extensive encounter. Bush commented on finding the Scottish leader unexpectedly humorous, while Brown commended the US president for his leadership in the war on terror.