** Two more provinces will be turned over to Iraqis by the end of May! **
Already, three of eighteen Iraqi Provinces have complete control over security and government operations.
Great Britain will reduce troop levels in Iraq after Iraqi forces take over security operations in at least two more southern provinces in the next few months.
Iraqi security forces celebrate during a handover ceremony in the Shiite city of Najaf. Iraqi soldiers and police took charge of security in Najaf and its province, at a colourful and optimistic jamboree on December 20, 2006. (Qassem Zein/AFP)
** Great Britain is planning on turning over security operations of Iraq’s second largest city Basra to Iraqi officials in the coming weeks. As a result of this, Great Britain will reduce troop levels by 3,000 military personnel.
The Telegraph reports on Great Britain’s “severely overstretched troops” and the planned reduction of 3,000 forces by the end of May:
Tony Blair will announce within the next fortnight that almost 3,000 troops are to be cut from the current total of 7,200, allowing the military to recover from four years of battle that have left it severely overstretched.
In what will be the first substantial cut of British troops serving in southern Iraq, their number will drop to 4,500 on May 31. The announcement will be made by the Prime Minister before he steps down from office as an intended signal of the achievements the British have made in Iraq — albeit at the cost of 128 dead…
The plans for the British withdrawal were revealed as President George W Bush announced that he was sending an additional 21,500 troops into Iraq.
Military planners are drawing up force levels for when Basra comes under “provincial Iraqi control” at the end of spring, when all security will be handed over to the Iraqi police and army.
The British Army will then position its troops at a major base that is being expanded at Basra air station, five miles west of the city, where they will be on standby. A small force of 200 men will be left in central Basra.
By the end of February the volatile Maysan province, patrolled by the 600-strong battle group of the Queen’s Royal Lancers, will be handed over to the local authorities.
Reuters has more on this great news spun uncertain.
The Defense Department has a map of the security progress in the Iraqi provinces.