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UK Pulling Out Last Remaining Troops in Iraq

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TEHRAN, May 19 (ICANA) – Britain is withdrawing its last remaining troops -more than 100 Navy personnel – in Iraq, effectively ending its military involvement in the eight-year old war, one of the most controversial in recent history.
Thursday, May 19, 2011 9:55:50 PM
UK Pulling Out Last Remaining Troops in Iraq

Defence Secretary Liam Fox said the UK-Iraq Training and Maritime Support agreement that has provided naval training and maritime support will conclude on Sunday and mark the formal end what it has called Operation Telic, since troops were involved in the 2003 invasion.

“British forces have been involved in this important task since 2003 and, under the agreement signed in 2009, Royal Navy trainers have developed the capacity of the Iraqi maritime security forces to protect their territorial waters and offshore oil platforms,” Fox said.

“But it is not the end of our bilateral defence relationship with Iraq. We will continue to train members of the Iraqi security forces at UK training establishments; continue to contribute to the NATO training mission in Iraq; and continue to engage with the Government of Iraq at the highest levels on defence and security issues,” he said in a parliamentary statement published Thursday.

He also added that Britain will continue to maintain defence capabilities in the wider Persian Gulf region as “part of our enduring contribution to (Persian) Gulf security.”

Some 179 British troops were killed and thousands seriously injured and maimed during the US-led war. According to the latest figures from Iraq Body Count, up to 110,225 civilians also lost their lives.

Opposition to the war in Britain provoked the biggest protests ever seen in the country, with more than a million marching on the streets of central London immediately after the invasion.

International lawyers also question the legal basis of the war, which did not have a clear UN mandate leading to calls in the UK to prosecute former Prime Minister Tony Blair for war crimes.

But Brigadier Max Marriner, Commander British Forces Iraq, insisted that the UK Armed Forces can “look back with pride at what they have achieved in Iraq since 2003.”

“Security has fundamentally improved and as a consequence the social and economic development of the south (where the bulk of British troops were stationed) has dramatically changed for the better, as too have people’s lives.” Marriner said.

Britain’s remaining land forces, which reached a peak of 46.000 during the months of invasion, were withdrawn from Iraq in July 2009, when they handed over the Basra region to the US.

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