UK to Slash Iraq Force by More Than Half

PM sees 'overwatch' role after cut from 5,500 to 2,500 troops
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 8, 2007 1:15 PM CDT
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, center, talks with British troops at their base in the southern city of Basra, 550 kilometers (340 miles) southeast of Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday Oct. 2, 2007. (AP Photo/Lefteris...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – British troops will number only 2,500 in Iraq by next spring, Gordon Brown said today. In “two distinct stages,” the PM said, the UK will shrink its presence to 4,000 troops from the current 5,500 and then to 2,500, the Guardian reports. Three of four provinces under UK control have already been handed over to local forces, Brown said.

Speaking at the opening of the House of Commons, Brown said Btitish forces will assume an "overwatch" role in and around Basra, concentrating on "training and monitoring." His Tory rivals, angered that Brown hasn't called for new elections, alleged politicized timing and demanded an independent inquiry into the war, the BBC reports.