LONDON — Britain hopes to pull out nearly all its soldiers from Iraq by the summer of 2008, with the first withdrawals within weeks, a top military commander said in an interview today.
Lt. Gen. Nick Houghton, Britain's most senior officer in Iraq, outlined a phased two-year withdrawal plan in an interview with the Daily Telegraph newspaper.
"There is a fine line between staying too long and leaving too soon," Houghton was quoted as saying. "A military transition over two years has a reasonable chance of avoiding the pitfalls of overstaying our welcome but gives us the best opportunity of consolidating the Iraqi security forces."
He cautioned that the plan to begin withdrawing Britain's 8,000 troops, who are based in and around the southern Iraqi city of Basra, was not set in stone.