British troops yesterday began pulling out of the center of Basra as they prepared to hand over control of the southern port city to the Iraqi army. A small UK force of about 500, which had been headquartered in Saddam Hussein's former palace, moved to Basra's airport, reports the Guardian. Britain's other Basra bases have already been abandoned.
The pullout has triggered tension between US and British officials. A former British general accused former US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld of ignoring his warning that Iraq could slip into chaos. "They simply shut it out," he said. "The US had convinced themselves that Iraq would emerge reasonably quickly as a stable democracy."