Afghanistan,  Iraq

Time to move

In The Times today, Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi Prime Minister, has said that it is time for British troops to go home and that as a fighting force they are no longer necessary to the hugely improved security of Iraq.

“We thank them for the role they have played, but I think that their stay is not necessary for maintaining security and control. There might be a need for their experience in training and some technological issues, but as a fighting force, I don’t think that is necessary.”

Since the controversial Basra deal last year with the al-Mahdi Shia militia, and Britain’s pullout from the city itself, Britain’s role has been limited. In the Times al-Maliki again criticised that deal, but also emphasised the “page had been turned” and he looked forward to a friendly, productive relationship with London.

“The Iraqi arena is open for British companies and British friendship, for economic exchange and positive cooperation in science and education.”

He’s right and just as soon as Gordon Brown has done his bit to ease the world financial crises he should look at a rapid draw down of Britain’s 4100 strong force in Iraq. Britain should provide whatever it can in Iraqi, but it looks as if nothing more is being asked for in Southern Iraq other than a training contribution.

Brown needs to take this opportunity and emphasize that the pullout from Iraq is essential for Britain to bolster its contribution in Afghanistan where our thinly stretched forces are and can have a positive impact.