Iraqi forces not ‘fully operational’, says BritainApril 25th, 2008 - 7:04 am ICT by admin
London, April 24 (DPA) Iraqi forces involved in the recent fighting in the southern port of Basra are “still months away from becoming fully operational,” Britain’s Defence Secretary Des Browne said Thursday. Browne, confirming an earlier government decision to put the planned withdrawal of 2,500 British troops from Basra on hold, said cuts would be made only “if the conditions allow”.
However, Britain was still hoping to reduce its 4,100-strong force, based at Basra airport, during the next regular six-monthly rotation of forces, Browne told parliament.
“While the situation on the ground continues to evolve rapidly, and while military commanders continue to assess the changing environment in Basra, it remains prudent that we take time to fully consider further reductions,” said Browne.
The British forces were focusing on training and mentoring an Iraqi army division in Basra which was “still months away from becoming fully operational”.
The British and US special forces, backed by Iraqi security forces, have recently been engaged in heavy fighting with Shia militiamen in and around Basra.
Browne said the Iraqi forces had established control over “large parts of Basra and all key routes in and out” and were removing “significant numbers of illegal weapons”.
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