“Home by Christmas” was how Gordon Brown’s announcement of troop withdrawal was spun following his visit to Iraq.
In fact he simply re-stated that the number of British troops in Iraq is to be reduced next spring from 4,500 to 2,500.
In the meantime the troops will remain hunkered down at Basra airport, unable to police the city. The official line is that “they won’t be patrolling but they will be available”.
They will, however, maintain their presence on the Iraq-Iran border as part of George Bush’s continuing threat of an attack on Iran.
Brown claimed the troop reductions would be possible because British troops will hand over policing of the city to the Iraqi army.
But neither the British army nor the Iraqi army are in a position to control Basra, as real control of the city remains in the hands of the Shia militias.