Defense Secretary Des Browne said Tuesday Britain would delay pulling out 1,500 troops from Iraq due to current disturbances in the southern city of Basra.
“In the light of the last week’s events, it is prudent that we pause any further reductions while the current situation is unfolding,” Browne told parliament, as he referred to five days of fighting between Iraqi troops and militants in the city.
“At this stage we intend to keep our forces at their current levels of around 4,000 as we work with our coalition partners and with the Iraqis to assess future requirements.”
British defense authorities said in a statement last year that all troops would be pulled out from Iraq by 2009 and intended to cut troop numbers by 2,500 by April this year, but the insecurity in Basra has made these plans impossible.
Browne said he would give an update on number of forces later this month, but declined to provide exact timeframe for when more troops would be withdrawn from the Iraq conflict, which is largely unpopular in Britain.
The fights in Basra, the heart of Iraq’s chief oil export productions, broke out after the Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki sent his own forces to try and put down the threats from Shia militants, whom are loyal to the cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr. However, the resistance proved much stronger than Iraqi government expected, which resulted in a deal with Sadr after pulling back five days after.