Britain and America are secretly preparing to
withdraw most of their troops from Iraq - despite warnings of the grave
consequences for the region, The Mail on Sunday has learned.
secret paper written by Defence Secretary John Reid for Tony Blair
reveals that many of the 8,500 British troops in Iraq are set to be
brought home within three months, with most of the rest returning six
leaked document, marked Secret: UK Eyes Only, appears to fly in the
face of Mr Blair and President Bush's pledges that Allied forces will
not quit until Iraq's own forces are strong enough to take control of
British troops pull out, other members of the Alliance are likely to
follow. The memo says other international forces in Southern Iraq
currently under British control will have to be handled carefully if
Britain withdraws. It says they will not feel safe and may also leave.
the document says the Americans are split over the plan - and it
suggests one of the reasons for getting British troops out is to save
money. Mr Reid says cutting UK troop numbers to 3,000 by the middle of
next year will save £500 million a year, though it will be 18 months
before the cash comes through.
document, Options For Future UK Force Posture In Iraq, is the first
conclusive proof that preparations for a major withdrawal from Iraq are
British Government's public position is that UK troops will stay until
newly trained Iraqi forces are ready to take control of security. Less
than a fortnight ago, Mr Blair said it was "vital" the US-led coalition
stayed until Iraq stabilised, and Mr Bush endorsed his comments.