PM Blair has announced the beginning of a British troop drawdown in the Coalition Forces in Iraq. PM Blair has announced Austrailias continued support.
To quote an Aussie on another site:
“Blair really isn’t pulling out either. He’s reducing troop numbers because they no longer need the same number of troops to do the job that they are doing.
Australia’s situation is different - we’ve already reduced our numbers in Iraq to the minimum needed to do the jobs we are currently doing and protect ourselves.
Bringing troops home can be a sign of victory, as well as a sign of surrender.”
I see Blair as responding to a weakening position in Britain. Howard is responding in a different way to his situation in Austrailia.
[quote]We won’t follow Blair’s Iraq pull-out, says Howard
Patrick Walters, February 21, 2007
Prime Minister John Howard today ruled out following Britain’s lead and reducing troop numbers in Iraq. Australia also has about 550 soldiers in southern Iraq, based at Tallil, and Mr Howard says there are no plans to reduce those numbers.
“You’ve got to maintain critical mass and to do the job, according to our defence advice, you need that,” he told reporters in Perth.
“The reason I understand Mr Blair will give is that conditions have stabilised in Basra so that there can be this decision taken.
“They will still have 5,000 and we will 550.
“I don’t think it follows from that that there should be a reduction in our 550,” Mr Howard said. Australia currently has about 1,450 personnel in the Middle East, including about 900 inside Iraq.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair will tell parliament that 1500 servicemen and women in and around Basra will leave within weeks, and a further 1500 troops will be home by Christmas.
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe confirmed that Mr Blair told US President George W. Bush of his plans for troop withdrawal.
‘‘We view this as a success,’’ Mr Johndroe said, suggesting the British move was a sign of increasing stabilisation in Iraq. ‘‘They spoke about this this morning on the phone,’’ he said.
Mr Blair will tell parliament that Operation Sinbad, the security and reconstruction plan conducted in Basra over the past six months by British forces, has been a success.
Since it ended earlier this month Mr Blair and forces’ chiefs have assessed the ability of Iraqi security troops to do the job.
Mr Blair will give the go ahead for withdrawal despite Mr Bush’s decision to send more than 21,000 American reinforcements into Baghdad.
Federal Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd challenged Prime Minister John Howard to follow Britain’s anticipated lead in withdrawing forces from Iraq. He said if it was good enough for Mr Blair to withdraw troops, Mr Howard should follow suit.
“If the British now have a withdrawal strategy from Iraq, the Australian people ask themselves a pretty basic question, ‘Why doesn’t Australia now have a withdrawal strategy from Iraq?’,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“My challenge to Mr Howard is what is your policy for winning the war in Iraq and what is your exit strategy for Australian troops.
“We’d like to hear answers to that because so far we haven’t got any.”
Mr Rudd said Labor’s policy on Iraq was simple. “We believe our combat forces should come home and we should not be sending more troops to Iraq,” he said.
Mr Rudd also said he was disappointed Mr Howard did not support his proposal to assist training Iraqi security forces in Oman.
The Howard government last week decided to extend the operational deployment of the 520-strong Overwatch Battle Group in southern Iraq until December 2007 as well as send 70 additional army trainers.
Australia’s Defence Minister Brendan Nelson and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer both played down the significance of the expected announcement of a British troop drawdown.
“Under no circumstances should anybody interpret the British having 5,000 troops in Basra, 10 times the Australian number, looking after the same number of provinces, as any kind of cut and run,” Dr Nelson told reporters in Perth.
“In fact, what this is evidence of is the fact that in the south of Iraq we are making progress and the British are confident enough to reduce their troop numbers to around 5,000.”
Dr Nelson denied that the UK phase-down was at odds with Washington’s decision to lift the number of US troops in Iraq by 21,500 and help stabilise Baghdad.
“People ought to remember that 60 per cent of the violence comes from Baghdad and al-Anbar province, where al-Qaeda is particularly active,” he told ABC Radio.
“The rest of Iraq is quite different. Yes, it is potentially very different, we’ve been working very hard to train the Iraqis up, we’ve made considerable progress in giving Iraqis control of security in the two provinces Australia looks after.
“The conditions are not yet right to abandon the Iraqis in those circumstances.”
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Britain was reducing, not withdrawing, its troops from Iraq.
“They will be leaving several thousand troops in Iraq and the important point to make here is the British are not withdrawing from Iraq,” he said.
“What we are all trying to do is increasingly transfer responsibility for the security to the Iraqi security forces.”
The Australians in southern Iraq are now based at the big US base at Tallil in Dhi Qar province but continue to rely on British for a range of services including helicopters, medical support and intelligence.
The Australian battle group has a security overwatch role in both Al Muthanna and Dhi Qar provinces working in conjunction with other coalition forces.
theaustralian.news.com.au/st … 01,00.html[/quote]