Britain will withdraw its remaining forces in Iraq to Kuwait by the end of the month after the Iraqi parliament failed to pass a deal allowing them to stay to protect oil platforms and provide training, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
The agreement would have let up to 100 British troops stay in Iraq after Britain ended its combat operations and began shipping out soldiers who were based mainly around the southern city of Basra. But it faced opposition led by followers of anti-US Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and Iraqi lawmakers adjourned on Monday for a recess without ratifying the deal.
British Embassy spokesman Jawwad Syed said on Tuesday it's a procedural delay and that the remaining British forces will pull back to Kuwait until the issue is resolved. The troops' existing mandate expires on July 31.
He said it was a temporary move and was optimistic they could find a way to allow the Britons to return to Iraq. "The guys who were doing the training are temporarily moving out to Kuwait while we talk to the Iraqi government about what we might do in the interim," Syed said. "We have general broad support for our agreement ... we're hopeful that when we have the next parliamentary session, we should achieve a ratification."
At the height of combat operations in the months after the US-led invasion, Britain had 46,000 troops in Iraq. Washington still has about 130,000 troops in Iraq and has shifted units south as London ended its combat mission.