Prime Minister Tony Blair has said Britain will cut the number of its troops in Iraq by 1600 over the next few months. But he said British soldiers would stay in the country as long as they were wanted, working on securing the border and supply routes among other tasks.
“The actual reduction of forces will be from the present 7.100, itsself down from over 9.000 two years ago, and 40.000 at the time of the conflict, to roughly 5.500,” Tony Blair said.
The planned withdrawal comes as British troops are handing over responsibility for security in Basra and the southeast to the Iraqis.
Blair said most of the remaining soldiers will be located at Basra Palace and airbase.
He said, when Iraqis take over the Palace site in late summer, around 500 more British troops could leave.
The reduction coincides with a US troop boost, aimed at quelling the insurgency in Baghdad.
132 British armed forces personnel have died in Iraq in the past three years.