The Leader has stated that there will be,
'3,000 British troops out of Basra by March of 2008, leaving only 2500, with those to be withdrawn by the end of that year. Brown's office says that the drawdown was approved by US Gen. David Petraeus.
Military analysts point out that the effective force in Basra will really only be 1250, since that is all the troops that could be spared for an operation in Basra or another nearby trouble spot, while the other 1250 would need to remain to secure the base. In turn, one could imagine a perilous situation emerging in Basra (population 1.5 million), dealing with which would require more than 1250 troops.
Some observers worry that the British contingent could get so small that it might be overwhelmed by militant Shiite militiamen, and be forced to evacuate by helicopter, as in the last days of the US in Saigon.
It is also unclear that the British could any longer, as of next March, effectively provide a security umbrella for US fuel and supply convoys going from Basra, Umm Qasr and Kuwait up north through Shiite territory to Baghdad and other sites of US military activity. The Iraqi 10th Army Division seems unlikely to be able to play that role so soon. My guess is that the US will have to station troops in Basra.'
Juan Cole's blog, Informed Comment, notes.
The Czech Republic has announced also that its (small) troop contingent will be leaving the Basra area 'very shortly' , and the Polish government warned that its soldiers would be leaving Iraq some time ago.
Is this a European Union co-ordinated departure?
BBC De-camps to Johannesburg
1 hour ago