UK Out of Iraq?

The UK's ranking military officer wants his troops out on the double.

While everyone else seems to be ignoring the September deadline for the Iraq surge, the highest ranking officer in the UK military seems to be standing by it.

According to The Scotsman newspaper, UK Chief of the General Staff Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt has called for the withdrawal of British forces from Iraq and their redeployment to Afghanistan. The UK currently has 5,500 troops in Iraq, located around Basra. Dannatt has called for them to move back to the airport, hand the area over to the Iraqis, and then withdraw. 2,000 of them would be free to join the existing force of 7,000 fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Dannatt has already come under anonymous criticism from US sources that the withdrawal is a poorly-disguised defeat. But it would be a bold source indeed that would refer to UK forces as "cut and runners," especially since he wants to boost operational strength in Afghanistan. Dannatt is also popular with his own troops, having consistently pushed for more downtime for frontline troops. He's also pushing for better benefits and pay, after already securing a tax-free £2,300 ($4,560) operational allowance for frontline troops and a 9.6% pay raise for junior soldiers.

According to the State Department's weekly Iraq report of August 1, there were 24 countries other than the US and UK with forces in Iraq, contributing a total of 6,008 personnel. However, Poland and Denmark have already committed to withdrawing their forces, joining the 17 other members of the coalition of the willing that have already pulled out. Most of the remaining nations are from Central or Eastern Europe, and there are no Arabic or African states involved.

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Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Coalition of the Willing

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