British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a surprise visit to Baghdad today and announced that all but a handful of British troops will leave Iraq by July 2009. About 4,000 British service members remain in Iraq, mostly around Basra, though at the height of the war 100,000 were deployed. Since the war began 178 British troops have lost their lives, reports the Times of London.
The British handed control of Basra to the Iraqis in December 2007, although troops maintain an "overwatch" role. A UN mandate authorizing foreign troops in Iraq expires at the end of the year.