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Brown gives troops credit for Iraq gains

THE WORLD

December 10, 2007|From Reuters

BAGHDAD — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has all but called an end to his nation's war in Iraq. But as Britain's largest overseas campaign in more than 50 years comes to a close, there is little sense of victory.

In less than two weeks, British troops will hand over security responsibility for Basra, the last province they control in southern Iraq, to Iraqi troops.

Nearly five years after then-Prime Minister Tony Blair sent 46,000 troops to help topple Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, Britain is keeping in place a force of just several thousand at a single air base near Basra city.

"The reason why security is so much better here, the reason why things have improved, is because of you," Brown told troops during a visit Sunday.

But some experts have concluded Britain lost its war.

"It is quite clear that the British have been defeated, that they are essentially marginalized in an enclave," U.S. analyst Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said in August.

Others say that judgment may be too harsh.

"The Blair government built this up into a valiant effort that would change the Middle East . . . but that was never really an attainable objective," said Tim Ripley, who writes for Jane's defense publications. "They were playing for a draw. That's a more realistic assessment, I'd say."

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