Nick Hopkins / The Guardian – 2011-05-20 00:42:24
UK’s Eight-year Military Presence in Iraq to End on Sunday
LONDON (May 18, 2011) — Britain’s eight years of military commitment in Iraq will finally and formally come to an end on Sunday, when the remaining forces in the south of the country will withdraw. The announcement to bring to an end one of the most controversial military campaigns in recent history was made on Wednesday in a statement to the Commons by the defence secretary, Liam Fox.
In total, the UK still has about 170 mostly naval personnel in Iraq, helping to train the fledgling Iraqi navy from the port of Umm Qasr. The contingent includes a few Royal Marines. That compares with the 46,000 British troops and other military personnel that were committed to the first phase of Operation Telic, the name given to the campaign to remove Saddam Hussein. In all, 178 UK service personnel, and one Ministry of Defence civilian, died in Iraq between 2003 and 2009.
UK combat forces, primarily based in the southern city of Basra, withdrew in July 2009 but since then the Royal Navy has continued working alongside US forces to train 1,800 Iraqis. In his statement, Fox said that the UK-Iraq training and maritime support agreement “will conclude on 22 May”.
He added: “British forces have been involved in this important task since 2003 and, under the agreement signed in 2009, Royal Navy trainers have developed the capacity of the Iraqi maritime security forces to protect their territorial waters and offshore oil platforms, which are vital to Iraq’s economic revival.
“Having successfully completed their mission UK personnel deployed to Iraq under this agreement will now leave the country. This will mark the formal conclusion of Operation Telic.”
Fox said that the UK would continue to train members of the Iraqi security forces in the UK, and contribute to the Nato training mission which remains in Iraq. “I pay tribute to all UK service personnel who have served in Iraq over the last eight years and to the sacrifices made by so many for the benefit of the people of Iraq and our national security,” the statement said.
Fox said that this was “also an opportunity to reflect on the wider contribution of Britain’s armed forces to Iraq since 2003. Thanks to the sacrifice, commitment, and professionalism of thousands of British service men and women Southern Iraq is an area transformed.”
The MoD issued two further statements on the withdrawal.
Brigadier Max Marriner, commander British forces Iraq, said: “The UK armed forces can look back with pride at what they have achieved in Iraq since 2003 — security has fundamentally improved and as a consequence the social and economic development of the south has dramatically changed for the better, as too have people’s lives. The Iraqi navy are ready, so now is the time for the UK to dress back and let them complete the mission they were created for.”
Brigadier Tim Chicken, director, Iraq training assistance mission (naval), added: “Although conducted out of the limelight, the work of British forces in Iraq since the end of the combat mission two years ago, spearheaded by the Royal Navy, has achieved significant results.
“I am confident that our work with the Iraqi navy has set the agenda for a fruitful, long-term defence relationship between our two countries and everyone here is very proud of the role they have played.”
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