First signs of a withdrawl?

Just read this and thought it might be of some interest. Still can't make up my mind as to whether it's cast-iron or just a load of 'perhaps'.

UK New
Troop Pullout 'To Begin'
Updated: 07:10, Sunday February 05, 2006

"The Government plans to begin withdrawing British troops from Iraq this spring, it has been reported.

The Independent on Sunday claims that a Whitehall source has revealed the plans, which would see an initial 500 troops leaving southern Iraq by the end of May.

The paper says that by the end of the year, Britain intends to withdraw up to 2,000 soldiers, a quarter of its total force in Iraq.

The US is understood to have approved the proposal in principle, as long as there are no significant changes in Iraq's political and security situation.
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A senior military source welcomed the move, telling the newspaper: "We will have achieved pretty much all we can by this summer."

However, he added that some British troops would remain in the country for years to come.

Another source said there were no plans for Britain to announce a complete withdrawal from Iraq any time in the forseeable future.

It is understood that the final aim is for Britain to maintain no more than a training element for local security forces in south-east Iraq.

Secretary of Defence John Reid is set to make a keynote speech on Iraq on Tuesday and could hint at the start of a pull-out.

Pressure for a withdrawal has increased following the 100th death of a member of the British forces in Iraq this week.",,30000-13502831,00.html
I doubt this, as another paper was talking about a permanent UK presence
Note the journalist does not ahve an up to date Who's Who in his office...

This announcement will have been made following the latest deaths of UK soldiers, in order to maintain the "light at the end of the tunnel" pretence. The "light" is in fact the Americans heading in the opposite direction, ie. home!

Revealed: secret plan to keep UK troops permanently in Iraq


BRITAIN is laying secret plans to maintain a permanent military presence in Iraq.

Ministers and military officials are in negotiations with their American counterparts over the British contribution to the long-term effort to maintain peace and stability in post-Saddam Iraq once the country is handed over to its newly elected government.

The scale of the commitment is yet to be formally agreed, but defence sources confirmed that it could see the UK maintaining a military base in south Iraq, near Basra, which it currently controls, for years to come.

The news of the potential extended military posting in one of the world's most dangerous trouble spots came as a commander admitted that British soldiers preparing to deploy to lawless southern Afghanistan were "apprehensive" about the threats they will face.

The Americans, who have yet to formally admit to concrete plans for long-term military bases in Iraq once the new government has been established, are expected to maintain at least one, much larger, facility near Baghdad. Critics claim the negotiations are part of a long-term plan to maintain US control over Iraq and its oil reserves, and to establish a valuable permanent presence in the Middle East.

Details of the behind-the-scenes planning for the next phase of the Iraq operation emerged amid escalating speculation that Coalition forces were on the verge of a significant reduction in the thousands of troops currently occupying Iraq.

In the week that the death toll among UK troops in the country passed 100, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw predicted "good news" regarding the 8,000-strong force later this year. Reports from Tokyo later claimed that Japan had agreed to drastically reduce its presence in Iraq during the first half of this year, along with Britain, America and Australia, following a summit meeting in London last month.

The MoD confirmed that the government still hopes to begin a significant withdrawal this year, although the 4,000 leaving by May quoted in some reports is seen as far too optimistic as the insurgency continues to disrupt everyday life in the British zone. Military planners foresee a phased "return to barracks" as a preliminary to a gradual reduction of forces during the year.

But even after significant numbers of troops have finally left Iraq, Britain will retain a presence. One senior defence source confirmed that negotiations with the Americans are ongoing, and that the MoD is actively considering the option of withdrawing to a "non-urban location", which could be termed as a base or a "training facility" with space for hundreds of troops.

Sir Tim Garden, a former assistant chief of the defence staff, said he expected the British and Americans to remain in Iraq for many years. But he warned that the government would be "foolish" to formalise its commitment into a full-scale military base.

Brigadier Ed Butler, commander of 16 Air Assault Brigade, which is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, said his troops were "apprehensive", but well trained, equipped and prepared for the task ahead of them - and he was confident that they had the capability to "operate freely" in Helmand province.

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