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Britain to withdraw from Iraq in a year: report

world Updated: Jun 03, 2007 11:08 IST

IANS
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The British military is planning to pull its troops out of Iraq in a year or so as to strengthen its combat capability in Afghanistan, the Sunday Telegraph reported citing a senior military official.

The official said the plan is expected to be presented to incoming prime minister Gordon Brown within weeks of him taking over from Tony Blair on June 27, the newspaper quoted.

Britain has consistently maintained that any pullout of troops in Iraq should be decided by events on the ground, not a timetable.

"Britain is not physically capable of fighting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq at the same time," the unnamed senior military official told the weekly.

"The question is: which do we give up? The government and the defence chiefs have decided that we should give up Iraq," the official said.

"There is an agreed timetable, a glide path, which will see a complete unilateral withdrawal in 12 months."

"There is a belief within the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and government that success is easier to measure in Afghanistan and that makes it more attractive," the official said.

"Though it is clear to many, both in the US and the British armed forces, that Iraq is strategically far more important than Afghanistan, there is no popular support for the war in Iraq. I think history will show that this was the wrong choice."

"At the most senior level in the MoD, the decision has been taken that Britain should be 'investing' in Afghanistan rather than Iraq and that is the advice that will be given to Gordon Brown," the official added.

British troops in Iraq, which will be scaled down from 7,100 to 5,500 this year, are based around the main southern city of Basra.

Meanwhile there are more than 6,000 British troops in Afghanistan, mostly in the restive south.