The British Prime Minister has refused to set a timetable for further cutting UK troops in Iraq. After meeting Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on a visit to Baghdad, Gordon Brown said he wanted to pull out more soldiers, but failed to give specifics. His spokesman said the Prime Minister was in the country instead to encourage investment in Basra, Iraq’s southern oil hub.
Brown’s government is expected to make a statement to parliament next week about Britain’s future role in the country. This coincides with growing confidence that Iraq can control its own security.
Britain sent 45,000 troops to take part in the U.S.-led effort to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003. Of those, only 4,000 remain, and they are engaged in training Iraqi security forces in Basra.
Downing Street had said it wanted to cut their number to 2,500 earlier this year but a Shi’ite resurgence in the southern province delayed plans.
Gordon Brown has said, before any move can be made, key objectives must be met in relation to training security forces, making sure upcoming local elections are on track and boosting development.