In a statement to the House of Commons, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown laid the groundwork for the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq in 2009. This is another domino to fall in the endgame for the Iraq war.
“We will continue to reduce the number of British troops in Iraq, Just as last year we moved from combat to ‘overwatch’, we would expect a further fundamental change of mission in the first months of 2009 as we make the transition to a long term bilateral partnership with Iraq, similar to the normal relationships which our military forces have with other important countries in the region,” Brown said.
Currently, the British have 4,000 or so troops on the outskirts of Basra. Brown’s statement came after the release of a defense select committee that claims that Basra is very security, and the conditions are in place for political and economic progress. These developments come on the heels of a statement by Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki that Iraq would like U.S. troops out of their country by the end of 2010, and the Bush administration’s agreement with the Iraqi government on a need for a withdrawal horizon.
All of this movement is not a coincidence. It is now clear that the Bush administration is ready to get out of Iraq. The British would not unilaterally talk about troop withdrawal. The person left out in the cold in all of this is Republican presidential candidate John McCain, whose position continues to be that the troops must stay in Iraq. The Republican’s position now looks like the extremist fringe compared to his opponent Barack Obama.
What is going on here is that all sides seem to be laying the foundation for the end of the occupation of Iraq. The end of this war is close, but it looks like a major offensive will be needed in Afghanistan. All of this is contingent on the violence levels staying low in Iraq, but it can’t be denied that the political will is there now to end this war.