British to Withdraw 1/3 of Troops from Iraq

News you only see in the foreign press: Britain to cut troop levels in Iraq.

The British Army is to start pulling troops out of Iraq next month despite the deteriorating security situation in much of the country, The Observer has learnt.

The main British combat force in Iraq, about 5,000-strong, will be reduced by around a third by the end of October during a routine rotation of units.

The forthcoming 'drawdown' of British troops in Basra has not been made public and is likely to provoke consternation in both Washington and Baghdad. Many in Iraq argue that more, not fewer, troops are needed. Last week British troops in Basra fought fierce battles with Shia militia groups.

The reduction will take place when the First Mechanised Infantry Brigade is replaced by the Fourth Armoured Division, now based in Germany, in a routine rotation over the next few weeks.

Troop numbers are being finalised, but, military sources in Iraq and in Whitehall say, they are likely to be 'substantially less' than the current total in Basra: the new combat brigade will have five or even four battle groups, against its current strength of six battle groups of around 800 men.

A military spokesman in Basra confirmed the scaling back of the British commitment.

This ran in the Observer on the 19th. The Observer has fallen on hard times, and isn't as reliable as its stablemate the Guardian, which is one of the UK's best newspapers. Still, this story hasn't, AFAIK, been contradicted by the UK government. Yet, as far as Google and I can tell, this story has gotten no traction at all in the US media except for Salon, which reprints the Observer story.

You would think that our #1 ally beginning to thin its troops on the ground merited a small mention in your local paper maybe? Or 30 seconds on the nightly news?

Maybe if we issue a press release in a new font?

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8 Responses to British to Withdraw 1/3 of Troops from Iraq

  1. Mojo says:

    It’s a precedent they’re hoping to slip past. The British are trying to sell this as a one for one swap (one unit for another one) while ignoring the huge disparity in personnel involved. If they can get that through, we can then use it to cut the number of US personnel back dramatically while still claiming to be supporting “democratic Iraq” with the same number of units. “An Army of One” is going to take on a whole new meaning!

  2. It’d be bad enough if the story was just ignored…but check out this link:

    http://www.voanews.com/article.cfm?objectID=23001EAC-1F04-4584-8EEA9A71701416F4&title=Blair%20Suggests%20British%20Public%20Should%20Prepare%20for%20Long%20Haul%20in%20Iraq&catOID=45C9C78C-88AD-11D4-A57200A0CC5EE46C&categoryname=Europe

    That’s Tony Blair on the Voice of America, 9 hours ago. The VOA is suggesting that even the antiwar liberal democrats in England agree more troops are necessary. The Guardian is in fact cited. But no mention of the pullout whatsoever…

    When you ignore the story, that’s one thing. Ignore it and mislead the public in another direction…well that just adds an intent component, doesn’t it?

  3. It’d be bad enough if the story was just ignored…but check out this link:

    http://www.voanews.com/article.cfm?objectID=23001EAC-1F04-4584-8EEA9A71701416F4&title=Blair%20Suggests%20British%20Public%20Should%20Prepare%20for%20Long%20Haul%20in%20Iraq&catOID=45C9C78C-88AD-11D4-A57200A0CC5EE46C&categoryname=Europe

    That’s Tony Blair on the Voice of America, 9 hours ago. The VOA is suggesting that even the antiwar liberal democrats in England agree more troops are necessary. The Guardian is in fact cited. But no mention of the pullout whatsoever…

    When you ignore the story, that’s one thing. Ignore it and mislead the public in another direction…well that just adds an intent component, doesn’t it?

  4. Bricklayer says:

    I’m not so sure this British action, if true, reflects so much on the US but rather on the lack of support from the rest of the world. I think the Brits had hoped by now the rest of the world would have taken action to help secure Iraq. I fear the UN’s present response to the needs of Iraq and Sudan may spell the death-knell for that organization.

    What’s done is done, and different people want Bush held accountable for Iraq in different ways.

    But can anyone seriously justify now abandoning the Iraqi people? How can the UN now justify turning its back on the people of Iraq who now desire democracy, especially in light of the dissastrously corrupt food-for-oil program that kept Sadaam in power? Is it moral for the rest of the world to leave Iraqis to fend for themselves against insurgents, just to spite Bush? Is the UN failing to take action on Sudan just because the US has been outspoken about the need for action there?

    I have some grave concerns that perhaps the UN’s reactions to our initiatives are not all about Bush, but America in general. I am not so sure that Kerry will be able to deliver on his promises to bring the world community into Iraq. I am not so sure there will even be a UN 10 years from now with things proceeding in this manner. Leaders like Bush (for better or worse) will come and go. If the UN allows people to die just to make a short-term point, I’m not sure we need it.

    As I am still trying to make up my mind about who to vote for, I cannot help but consider what might happen if the world still turns its back on America and Iraq despite a “regime change” here at home.

    I don’t think this British action is a sign of impending doom per se. It ought to be a wake up call to the other so called “democracies” of Europe to put their anti-Bush feelings aside and help the people of Iraq and Sudan. We don’t need philosphic world leaders like Kooki Annan lamenting “illegal” wars and declines in the “rule of law”, simultaneously allowing the worst human rights offender nations to lead UN councils. We need a world body that comes to the aid of the vulnerable ragardless of how they got that way.

    I have a feeling Bush shares my sentiments on the UN. I have a feeling Kerry buys into the UN lock-stock-and-barrel, and that has me very concerned about how to use my vote.

  5. My In-Laws are reporting that since the Philippines withdrew from Iraq, INS/Homeland (in)Security has retaliated against filipinos coming to the U.S., denying them entry.

    I wonder if the Bush administration will do the same to British Citizens.

    hmmm, looks like they’ve already started.

  6. Michael says:

    Bricklayer…How is the logic of your comment above different from the following summary:

    ‘The British have discovered that the ‘coalition’ has no friends and are very quietly trying to extricate themselves from a mess. The whole world increasingly dislikes what we are doing. Therefore the whole world should change its mind and do what we want them to do. Bush’s entrapment in a quagmire, partly due to his errors of planning and failure to wait for consensus among even our NATO allies, reflects badly on the world, not on him. The world should have been impressed by the nobility of our rhetoric and ignored pesky facts such as the failure to let the UN process — however imperfect — run its course, the ongoing WMD searches still in progress (however belatedly), the lack of hard intelligence, and (as at least the British knew then, see last weeks reports about Jack Straw’s letter to Blair at the time) the total failure to plan for the post-war period. Having made a smart choice then, foreign governments should reverse it now.’

    Isn’t it at least possible that some of this world dislike is due to precipitous action, on slanted intelligence, very very poor planning for the post-war period, and equally poor execution of what plans there were. Not to mention hearts-and-minds stuff like shooting civilians in the street and torturing their relatives in prisons? (Compare to the British controlled zones which have had less problems, albeit in part because they are composed of groups more predisposed to be friendly to the invaders.) When the US is isolated in the world, is it ALWAYS the world’s fault? I certainly t think that the US sometimes is alone and still right–but is this inevitable? And if not, isn’t some argument required.

    I agree that given where the US is now, the so-called ‘Pottery Barn Theory’ of Iraq has appeal (you broke it you bought it). But it’s hard to see why an uninvolved party should feel the same — or any– responsibility to pull Bush’s nuts out of the fire he built.

    So *for the US* (and maybe Iraq) ‘cut and run’ a la Robert Novak would be a pretty rotten thing to do. But there has/will come a point where unless someone can produce a credible strategy for a better outcome, that becomes the least of two evils. It is 100% evident that the current administration is incapable of producing that strategy. It certainly has not done so to date. It is not evident that Kerry can do it either, if only because reality may ensure that such a strategy does not exist.

    Kerry claims, not utterly persuasively, that internationalization would add legitimacy and calm the Iraqis. I’m dubious, because I think other governments will not bite, but I suppose it’s worth a try. (It seems to be what you think would happen too, given your comments.) And given how much even most of our allies hate Bush (not all, just most), Kerry has a better shot at it — however limited — than Bush ever could. And it is not incumbent on Kerry to produce a fully fleshed plan now given the three constraints of (1) he doesn’t have access to all the intelligence, such as it is; (2) conditions on the ground shift quickly; (3) it’s not wise to show too many negotiating cards on foreign affairs before taking office. On the other hand, it is reasonable to contrast the competence at forming and executing policy (rather than photo ops) of the Bush team with any administration since the Depression. Kerry’s will be much better. Alas, it won’t be very hard to meet that standard.

    [Incidentally I don’t think Iraq and Sudan are like cases: slowly but at last, governments are taking action on the Sudan issue. The UN may not be able to act if the Chinese (or Russians) use their veto, but regional security organizations might be able to. ]

  7. Chris says:

    I’d add one more thing to Michael’s point. Bush some time ago indicated hostility to the idea of companies based in countries opposed to the US invasion benefitting from reconstruction contracts and the like. As far as I know, this stance has not changed (someone correct me if I’m wrong). The message I’d be getting if I was one of these countries is: “Help save our necks and relieve us of the costs, which are escalating out of control, but without expectation of recouping anything (as we have exclusive dibs on the profits).” While I hope the world will save the Iraqis from our catastrophe, I don’t blame them for declining to fling their money and their children out a window to no good purpose.

  8. Mojo says:

    One of the primary reasons UN involvement in Iraq has been so spotty and ineffective is that the US, with it’s veto power in the Security Council, has refused to turn over control or really work with anybody else. We have demanded that the other countries of the world spend their money and lives helping to clean up this mess but we’ve refused to give them any authority (except when it suits us). I do agree with Bricklayer that we can’t simply abandon the Iraqi people. Unfortunately we’ve obligated ourselves morally to a new Vietnamization, and this time the timetable needs to be based on the capabilities of the Iraqi government rather than US political concerns. There are ways to decrease US casualties, but we won’t be able to eliminate them for years to come without abandoning whatever degree of moral authority we have left. Completely independent of the harm that would do us internationally, the rot it would cause in ourselves would be devastating.

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