Troop withdrawal?

A bit of surprising news this Monday morning. The Mail reports: "A secret paper written by Defence Secretary John Reid for Tony Blair reveals that many of the 8,500 British troops in Iraq are set to be brought home within three months, with most of the rest returning six months later."

The reason for this secret change of heart isn't terrorism but money: "Mr Reid says cutting UK troop numbers to 3,000 by the middle of next year will save £500 million a year, though it will be 18 months before the cash comes through." To be fair, the memo only contains Reid's recommendation, with no indication that it reflects any kind of consensus within the Blair government.

What's more interesting is Reid's assessment of the split within the U.S. government over Iraq: "Emerging U.S. plans assume 14 out of 18 provinces could be handed over to Iraqi control by early 2006, allowing a reduction in [Allied troops] from 176,000 down to 66,000. There is, however, a debate between the Pentagon/Centcom, who favour a relatively bold reduction in force numbers, and the multinational force in Iraq, whose approach is more cautious."

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