British troops could be withdrawn from Iraq despite Washington’s desire that they continue to fight along with American forces. A determined Gordon Brown hinted after meeting President George Bush in Camp David on Monday that he might consider pulling 5,500 British troops from Iraq.
Brown said, “We can then achieve what we want to do, which is to pass security over to the Iraqi­people.” He added his aim was to “step by step move control to the Iraqi authorities – to the Iraqi government and to its security forces – as progress is made.”
“We’ve moved from combat to over watch in three of the four provinces for which we, the British, have security responsibility. We intend to move to over watch in the fourth province, and that decision will be made on the military advice of our commanders on the ground,” the Prime Minister stated.
He is expected to announce the withdrawal to parliament soon after the return of MPs in October from the summer recess. Political analysts said Brown’s determination to draw troops back to base in Basra will lead to irritation in the White House and the Pentagon.
“Gordon Brown has paved the way for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq by telling George Bush he would not delay their exit in order to show unity with the United States,” one analyst commented.
Brown’s comments will give him further bounce in public ratings here in Britain. One Labour Peer told HT: “Gordon Brown has paved the way for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq by telling George Bush he would not delay their exit in order to show unity with the United States. It strengthens the belief that a snap poll may be held soon after the forces return home.”
Another significant development was Brown apparently distancing himself from Bush’s “war on terror”. He said, “Terrorism is not a cause, it is a crime – and it is a crime against humanity.” He also appeared to indicate that he considered the fight against the Taliban in Afghan­istan as the more important theatre for British troops. “Afghanistan is the front line against terrorism,” he said.