The British army has pulled out from inside Iraq’s second city, Basra for the first time since the start of the US-led invasion. For Colonel Richard Sanders, the withdrawal from the besieged Basra Palace is a crucial step towards handing over control of the province to the Iraqis.
“This is the point where we ask the Iraqi security forces to start to take responsibility for the security of Basra themselves,” he said. “I think that’s the right thing to do because the longer we are here, the less inclined they are to run things for themselves.”
Members of the Shi’ite Mehdi Army, who have launched daily attacks on British forces, hailed the withdrawal as a defeat for Britain. Others view it as victory for Iraq. “We don’t need anyone to assist us, let us live in a new era. We are Iraqi and it’s our land, not British nor American,” one Basra resident said. The British soldiers will, however, join the remaining 5,000 troops at the last British base near Basra Airport.