Thursday, February 22, 2007

Perspective: British Army commanders wanted bigger and faster troop pullout

British tanks patrol in Basra yesterday. The southern port city is Iraq's only outlet to the Persian Gulf.

Military chiefs had been pushing for much bigger cuts in the number of British troops in Iraq than those announced yesterday by Tony Blair, defence officials made clear last night.

For months, army commanders have suggested that their presence on the streets of Basra was doing more harm than good, that it was time to lower expectations and let Iraqi forces take charge of security. They were forced to agree to a more gradual reduction partly in deference to US sensitivities. They also recognised the importance of "managing risk", a senior defence source said.

"You don't want them to have to go back in," he added.

Read the rest at the Guardian