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British Troops Could Leave Iraq In One Year: Talabani Interview

Talabani called for a gradual pull-out, with close co-ordination between coalition nations and the Iraqi authorities.

London (AFP) Nov 13, 2005
Iraqi forces will probably be ready to replace British troops in one year and allow the British to return to home, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said in an interview Sunday.

Talabani's comments to ITV1 television added to a growing number of statements that British troops and the rest of the US-led multinational force could begin a major pullout soon, despite notes of caution.

"We don't want British forces forever in Iraq. Within one year -- I think at the end of 2006 -- Iraqi troops will be ready to replace British forces in the south," Talabani said, according to excerpts from ITV1 television.

Some 8,000 British troops based in the southern city of Basra have been in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003 that toppled Saddam Hussein.

Asked whether he was making a commitment, Talabani replied: "Well, I haven't been in negotiations, but in my opinion and according to my study of the situation I can say that it is the just estimation of the situation...

"There is not one Iraqi that wants that forever the troops remain in the country," the ethnic Kurdish president said, according to remarks on the ITV website.

General Sir Mike Jackson, Britain's chief of general staff, reacting on BBC television to Talabani's remarks, said "we most certainly could leave" within one year, but "it's a question of achieving the right conditions".

The US-led multinational forces are trying to ensure a stable environment for a transformation to democratic rule in Iraq that would strike a difficult balance among the Sunni Muslim minority in the center who ruled under Saddam Hussein, the Shiite Muslim majority in the south and centre, and the non-Arab Kurds in the north.

It was important for conditions to be met where the US-led coalition, the Iraqi government and Iraqi people "have the confidence that they can now fully stand on their own feet (and) there is no requirement to be supported by the coalition", Jackson said.

Despite his prediction, Talabani also warned that an immediate pullout would be a "catastrophe" that would affect the rest of the Middle East.

"It would lead to a kind of civil war and... we will lose what we have done for liberating Iraq from the worst kind of dictatorship," he added.

Talabani called for a gradual pull-out, with close co-ordination between coalition nations and the Iraqi authorities.

He acknowledged that insurgents could step up violence in the run-up to National Assembly elections scheduled for December 15, but doubted they would affect the result.

The Iraqis -- including members of the Sunni Muslim community from which most of the insurgents have hailed -- are all participating, he said.

Talabani acknowledged that mistakes were made in the re-establishment of Iraqi police and security services in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein's downfall.

In Rome on Saturday, Talabani told reporters that the Iraqi government would be in a position to discuss the withdrawal of the multi-national military force, including Italy's component, "by the end of 2006".

But he said he had received assurances from Italian opposition leaders they would not immediately withdraw Italy's troops from Iraq should they triumph in a general election next year.

During a visit to Washington in September, Talabani said Iraqi forces hoped to be able to replace some US troops, who make up the bulk of the international coalition, by the end of 2006.

The US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said last month that political progress and improving home-grown security forces in Iraq may allow the United States to cut its military presence in 2006.

British Defense Secretary John Reid has said repeatedly over the last few months that Britain is likely to begin scaling back its forces in Iraq next year but has stopped short of suggesting there would be a full pullout.

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U.S. 'Can't Maintain Iraq Troop Levels'
Washington (UPI) Nov 11, 2005
Unless the Bush administration significantly cuts American troop levels in Iraq next year, the U.S. military's roughly 140,000-strong presence there will become a detriment to America's national security, according to a report released this week.







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