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Secret memo: The Brits want to pull out of Iraq pronto


Tony wants to leave Chimpy high and dry ASAP.

The Daily Telegraph says they want to pull out of Iraq. No plan, lives lost, a country destroyed, and a coalition of the willing that is at this point, practically nonexistent.

A top-secret paper written by British Defence Secretary John Reid for Prime Minister Tony Blair reveals many of the 8500 British troops in Iraq are likely to be brought home within three months. Most of the rest would return six months later.

The leaked document appears to fly in the face of Mr. Blair and President Bush’s pledges that allied forces will not withdraw until Iraqi forces are strong enough to take control of security. The memo, revealed in The Mail on Sunday newspaper, says other international forces under British control will have to be handled carefully if Britain withdraws.

They may also leave Iraq, fearing they will no longer be safe.

Embarrassingly, the document says US authorities are split over the plan. It also suggests one of the reasons for getting British troops out is to save money.

Mr Reid says cutting British troop numbers to 3000 by the middle of next year will save millions of dollars a year, though it will be 18 months before the cash comes through. The document, Options for Future UK Force Posture in Iraq, is the first conclusive proof that preparations for a large-scale withdrawal from Iraq are well advanced.

The Blair Government’s public position is that British troops will stay until newly trained Iraqi forces are ready to take control of security. Less than a fortnight ago, Mr. Blair said it was vital the US-led coalition remained until Iraq stabilised. Mr Bush endorsed his comments.

The memo leaves little doubt that Britain plans to take its lead from the White House, where an increasingly unpopular Mr Bush is under huge pressure from the US public to bring American troops home fast.

Update: The Heretik has the text of the memo, noting that there will be an incredible amount of spinning on this, so read for yourself and decide what it says.:

Paper by Secretary of State SECRET – UK EYES ONLY

1. ISSUE

We will need to reach decisions later this year on likely future UK force structure and disposition in Iraq into 2006.

This paper sets out some of the key contextual considerations; identifies areas of uncertainty; sets out what we know of US planning and possible expectations on the UK contribution; and assesses the potential impact on UK decision making.

2. Decisions on coalition, and within that, UK force levels will be governed by four factors, all of which are subject to a greater or lesser degree of uncertainty:
* Internal Iraqi pressure for further force posture changes.
* Successful progress in the potential process and extension/renewal of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546. (Mail on Sunday footnote 1)
* The continued development of the capability of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).
* The security situation.

3. None of this, however, undermines the Multinational Force Iraq (MNF-I) (Mail on Sunday footnote 2)broad security strategy of:
a) Working with the Iraqis to contain and restrain the insurgency.
b) Assisting and encouraging the development of Iraqi security forces and structures which can progressively assume responsibility for all aspects of security including dealing with the insurgency, and thereby:
c) Enable MNF-I force reductions and eventual withdrawal.

4. US POSITION

US political military thinking is still evolving. But there is a strong US military desire for significant force reductions to bring relief to overall US commitment levels.

Emerging US plans assume that 14 out of 18 provinces could be handed over to Iraqi control by early 2006, allowing a reduction in overall MNF-I from 176,000 down to 66,000.

There is, however, a debate between the Pentagon/Centcom (Mail on Sunday footnote 3) who favour a relatively bold reduction in force numbers, and MNF-I whose approach is more cautious.

The next MNF-I review of campaign progress due in late June may help clarify thinking and provide an agreed framework for the way ahead.

5. (Technical details)

6. UK POLICY CONSIDERATIONS

The current ministerially endorsed policy position is that the UK should not:
a) Agree to any changes to the UK area of responsibility.
b) Agree to any specific deployments outside Multinational Division South East. (Mail on Sunday footnote 4)
c) Agree to any specific increases in the roughly 8,500 UK service personnel currently deployed in Iraq.

7. Looking further ahead, we have a clear UK military aspiration to hand over to Iraqi control in Al Muthanna and Maysan provinces (Mail on Sunday footnote 5) in October 2005 and in the other two Multinational Division South East provinces, Dhi Qar and Basra (Mail on Sunday footnote 6) in April 2006.

This in turn should lead to a reduction in the total level of UK commitment in Iraq to around 3,000 personnel, ie small scale, by mid 2006.

This should lead to an estimated halving in the costs which fall to the reserve, (Mail on Sunday footnote 7) around Â?1 billion per annum currently. Though it is not clear exactly when this reduction might manifest itself, it would not be before around the end of 2006.

8. None of this however, represents a ministerially endorsed plan. There is a good deal more military analysis to do which is under way. We will need to consider handling of other MND SE allies.

The Japanese reconstruction battalion (Mail on Sunday footnote 8)will for example be reluctant to stay in Al Muthanna if force protection is solely provided by the Iraqis. The Australian position, which is highly influenced by the Japanese presence, may also be uncertain. (Mail on Sunday footnote 9)

NOTE

I will bring further and more specific proposals to DOP-I (Mail on Sunday footnote 10) for the future UK force posture in Iraq, including handover to Iraqi control and subsequent UK military drawdown.

John Reid.

Mail on Sunday footnotes

Footnote 1:(UN resolution authorising allied troops presence in Iraq)
Footnote 2: (The Multinational Force of Allied troops in Iraq)
Footnote 3: (Centcom is the US military command centre in the US)
Footnote 4: (Not get involved in operations outside area around Basra under UK control)
Footnote 5: (two of the four provinces around Basra in UK control)
Footnote 6: (the other two UK run provinces)
Footnote 7: (The UK Treasury Reserve)
Footnote 8: (Japan has 550 engineers in UK area of Iraq)
Footnote 9: (Australia has 1,400 troops in Iraq ,whose main job is to protect the Japanese)
Footnote 10: (The Defence and Overseas Policy, Iraq sub committee of the Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister)

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding