British forces begin withdrawal from Basra

U.S. General Michael Oates and British general Andy Salmon

After six years as America’s closest western ally in Iraq, Britain handed over command in the Basra area to the United States on Tuesday as a prelude to withdrawing its last 4,100 troops from the country.

At its height, the British commitment to the American-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003 totaled more than 40,000 personnel, including ground troops and pilots. But with its army stretched by a growing deployment in Afghanistan, Britain has gradually scaled back its presence and handed over security duties to Iraqi forces.

At a ceremony at a civilian air terminal here, Maj. Gen. Andy Salmon of Britain’s Royal Marines handed control of forces in the Basra area to American Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, who will command the British forces as they draw down.

Most are scheduled to leave the country by the end of July, but several hundred will be left an advisory capacity…

Iraqis security forces are technically in control of Basra, and the remaining American troops will primarily serve as advisors, General Oates said.

Bring ’em all home from Iraq. Both sides of the pond.

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