Britain is to significantly cut its military presence in Iraq. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Gordon Brown who also told the House of Commons that UK forces would move from a fighting role to an “overwatch” role.
Britain currently has more than 5,000 soldiers deployed in Iraq but Brown told MPs:
“We plan from next spring to reduce force numbers in southern Iraq to a figure of 2,500.”
The premier had been criticised for announcing initial reductions last week while visiting Iraq, during the opposition Conservatives’ conference.
Already scathing over Brown’s decision not to call a snap election, their leader David Cameron lashed out.
“This is about dealing with people’s lives and the families of our brave servicemen,” he said.
“And does he agree with me that this is just not an acceptable way for a prime minister to behave?”
Brown, however, was having none of it.
“If we are to have a responsible politics in this country, then ministers who hold responsibility for the safety and security of our armed forces must visit our armed forces, listen to what they say, draw on their advice and then make the decisions which is what I am announcing today,” he said.
He also pledged help for Iraqis who had worked with UK forces for over a year – some of whom will be able to apply to come to Britain.