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Despite talk of withdrawal 'when the job is done', there are signs that coalition troops will be there for the long term.
The Pentagon has revealed that coalition forces are spending millions of dollars establishing at least six "enduring" bases in Iraq - raising the prospect that US and UK forces could be involved in a long-term deployment in the country. It said it assumed British troops would operate one of the bases.
Almost ever since President Bush claimed an end to "major combat operations" in Iraq on 1 May 2003, debate has focused on how quickly troops could be withdrawn. The US and British governments say troops will remain in Iraq "until the job is done". Yet while the withdrawal of a substantial number of troops remains an aim, it has become increasingly clear that the Pentagon and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) are preparing to retain some forces in Iraq for the longer term. The US currently has around 130,000 troops in Iraq; Britain has 8,000.
He added: "Right now, I don't have any information that tells me which nationality will comprise the remaining two bases, though my assumption is that at least one will be run by the Brits." An MoD spokesperson said British forces were currently operating out of eight bases in southern Iraq, with a small contingent based in Baghdad, and that "discussions with coalition forces relating to future basing are still at a very early stage. Nothing has been agreed."
The official added: "We have no intention of remaining, or indeed retaining bases in Iraq long-term. We will leave Iraq as soon as the democratically elected Iraqi government is confident that its security forces have the capability and capacity to counter terrorism and to preserve the security of democracy there."
The Pentagon says it has already reduced the number of US bases from 110 a year ago to a current total of around 75. But at the same time it is expanding a number of vast, highly defended bases, some in the desert away from large population areas. More than $280m (£160m) has already been spent on building up Al Asad air base, Balad air base, Camp Taji and Tallil air base, and the Bush administration has this year requested another $175m to enlarge them. These bases, which currently house more than 55,000 troops, have their own bus routes, pizza restaurants and supermarkets.