Britain to start withdrawing its remaining troops in March 2009; Suicide bomber kills 48 in Kirkuk
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • Reports noted that Britain’s remaining troops in Iraq will begin withdrawing from the country in March 2009 on a timetable that will aim to leave only a small training force of 300 to 400 by June of that year. The long-expected drawdown of the British force next year from its current level of 4,100 troops will effectively end Britain’s role as the principal partner of the US in the occupation of Iraq. A British force of more than 46,000 troops took part in the effort that overthrew Saddam Hussein. Analysts believed that the British withdrawal plan appeared to have been influenced to some extent, by the victory of Barack Obama in the US presidential elections the previous month and his plans to draw up a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Other factors that mattered included the British general elections that should be held before June 2010. It was also not likely that the troops being withdrawn from Iraq would be automatically deployed to Afghanistan1.

    A British soldier meanwhile died at the Contingency Operating Base in Basra, bringing the number of British service personnel killed on military operations in Iraq since 2003 to 178. An investigation by the Royal Military Police Special Investigations Branch was under way to determine the cause of the incident. In the previous week, Lt. Corp. David Wilson of 9 Regiment Army Air Corps died in similar circumstances from a gunshot wound to the head2.

    A suicide bomber attacked a packed restaurant frequented by Sunni Arabs and Kurds in the northern city of Kirkuk killing at least 48 people and injuring over 100. The bombing was the deadliest in over six months. Reports noted that the target was symbolic as it was a meeting of Kurdish officials and Sunni Arab members of the Awakening, mostly former insurgents who were now working for the government. The American Embassy and the US military condemned the attack and blamed the Al Qaeda in Iraq for the incident. While sectarian tensions have quieted in much of the country, strong divisions remain in the north between Sunni Arabs and Kurds, who are competing for control of land and other resources3.