UK, Denmark to start troop withdrawal.
Key US ally Britain, along with Denmark, announced yesterday a major troop withdrawal from Iraq, even as the US sends in thousands of extra soldiers to douse the raging insurgency.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the British force in southern Iraq would drop from 7,100 to 5,500 in coming months and could fall below 5,000 this year.
Denmark said its 430 ground troops would leave by August. Lithuania was also considering withdrawing its 50 troops at the same time, its defence minister said.
Britain’s move was particularly important for Washington as it is the largest component of the US-led force in Iraq after the United States.
“The UK military presence will continue into 2008 for as long as we are wanted and have a job to do,” the prime minister told the British parliament.
British, Danish and other multinational troops have been concentrated around the southern city of Basra, which Blair said remains “dangerous” but had improved enough for security to be handed over to Iraqi forces.
“What all this means is not that Basra is how we want it to be, but it does mean that the next chapter in Basra’s history can be written by Iraqis.
“Increasingly our role will be supporting training and our numbers will be able to reduce accordingly,” he said.
Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that Danish troops would leave southern Iraq in August and be replaced by a helicopter unit of 50 soldiers.