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British troops in Iraq to be halved: Report

Senior Army officers say the number of British troops serving in Iraq will be reduced from 7,200 to 3,500 by February.

india Updated: Oct 26, 2006 15:36 IST

The number of British troops in Iraq may be reduced substantially by early next year if its military campaign continued at its current rate of success, a media report said on Thursday.

Senior Army officers said the number of British troops serving in Iraq would be reduced from 7,200 to 3,500 by February, as the commanders on the ground claimed to have reached the "tipping point" in defeating insurgents in the southern city of Basra.

The campaign, known as Operation Sinbad, began last month.

As the latest six-month turnaround of British forces got under way this week, officers were confident that the success of the counter-insurgency effort would lead to a significant reduction in troop numbers, The Telegraph reported on Thursday.

"If Operation Sinbad goes as well as it has done, then we can expect to substantially decrease our force by February at the earliest," a senior British officer based in Basra said.

"There is a real sense that we are just short of that tipping point. If we can just push it over the edge everything will fall in a particular way," he said.

A senior American defence official in Washington said that British officials had informed US that they wanted to withdraw the majority of their forces within a year so that they could concentrate their resources on the war in Afghanistan, the report added.

He said that British officials had told their US counterparts that the British military was "near to breaking point" due to long deployments in Iraq and weak retention of military personnel.