SECRET plans by the British Government to reduce troop numbers in Iraq have been shelved amid growing concerns that the country is heading into
full-scale civil war.
There is now no official date for the troop withdrawal.
The decision comes as ministers prepare to announce an unexpected redeployment of up to 6000 members of the 7th Armoured Brigade — the renowned
Desert Rats — in the conflict zone next month.
Under the original withdrawal plans of Defence Secretary John Reid, up to 8500 troops would have returned to Britain by next month, with the rest
going home by the middle of next year.
Confirmation of the large redeployment and news that there is no end date for withdrawal have sparked fears among soldiers and senior military figures
that Iraq may be developing into Britain's "Vietnam".
Britain's Ministry of Defence yesterday disputed the report, saying it had never set a timetable for withdrawing its troops and that any reduction in
numbers would depend on conditions in Iraq.
But it confirmed that the Desert Rats would be redeployed before the end of the year, suggesting that thousands of British troops will remain in the
country well into next year.
In New York, Iraq's Prime Minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, painted a rosy picture of the situation, days after a surge of violence killed more than 200
people. "We are marching towards political stability and economic prosperity," he told the UN General Assembly.
Iraqi security forces continued to prepare "to take over all security matters" from the US-led multinational force, but the time was not yet ripe
for his country to become completely self-dependent, "even though some Iraqi cities have prepared to do so", he said.
"Therefore we will be asking the multinational forces to leave these cities once we are ready," Mr Jaafari said. He did not offer any timetable.
On Saturday evening, a remote-control car bomb detonated in a crowded marketplace on the outskirts of Baghdad, killing at least 30 people.
In the southern city of Basra, about 200 armed members of the Mahdi Army Shiite militia blocked streets with burning tyres, demanding the release of
Sheikh Ahmed Fartosi, arrested by British and Iraqi forces on Friday. He is accused of launching raids against security forces.
[edit on 19-9-2005 by horusthechorus]