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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ: ALTERNATIVE ENERGY; ELECTION
LAW; BRITISH TROOPS

Britain plans to downsize Iraq force

July 14, 2008|From the Associated Press

LONDON — Britain plans to substantially scale back its troop numbers in Iraq during 2009, the head of the country's armed forces said Sunday.

Air Chief Marshal Jock Stirrup said Britain would withdraw soldiers to help ease major strains on its military, which has been stretched by deployments in both Afghanistan and southern Iraq.

Britain had planned to cut its troops in Iraq from 4,000 to 2,500 earlier this year, but postponed the withdrawal in March amid an increase in militia violence.

"I would expect us to see further substantial progress towards a more sustainable tempo in the course of the next year," Stirrup told the BBC.

Britain has increased to almost 8,000 the number of troops in Afghanistan, and Stirrup said the military does not have the capacity to keep soldiers deployed across both fronts for much longer.

The British troops in Iraq are based on the fringe of the oil-rich southern city of Basra and no longer have an active combat role. Soldiers are involved mainly in training Iraqi security forces.

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