Thursday, April 30, 2009
British troops withdraw from Iraq combat!
"Britain ends military operations in Iraq
18 mins ago
"BASRA, Iraq (AFP) – British forces formally ended combat operations in Iraq on Thursday, one month ahead of schedule, after a solemn ceremony to remember their dead comrades from six years of warfare.
The conclusion of the military campaign, which began with the March 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, came as Prime Minister Gordon Brown met his Iraqi counterpart Nuri al-Maliki in London.
"Today marks the closing chapter of the combat mission in Iraq," Brown said. "The flag of 20 Armoured Brigade will be lowered as British combat patrols in Basra come to an end and our armed forces prepare to draw down.
"Today we are taking steps to strengthen and deepen our relationship and to make it a long-term partnership of equals," he added.
A ceremony was held in the southern city of Basra for the handover to US forces by the British military, Washington's closest ally in the war.
"Today marks the end of the UK's combat mission in support of the government of Iraq," said Brigadier Tom Beckett, commander of 20th Armoured Brigade, moments before the unit's flag was lowered.
"We are sad to leave our Iraqi friends, but we leave knowing we have done our job, and done it well."
British troop numbers were the second largest in the Iraq campaign, peaking at 46,000 at the height of combat operations that resulted in Saddam's ouster and his eventual execution for crimes against humanity.
The formal end of combat operations means that all troops still in Iraq will use the remainder of their deployment to pack up their gear before heading to their next posting.
The official withdrawal of forces was launched on March 31 when the pennant of the British headquarters in Basra came down and the base was handed over to US control.
A deal signed by Baghdad and London last year had agreed that the last 4,100 British soldiers would complete their mission -- primarily training the Iraqi army -- by June, before a complete withdrawal from the country in late July.
Before the handover, British forces paid tribute to their 179 colleagues killed since the US-led invasion.
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"Under a landmark security pact signed between Baghdad and Washington in November, US troops are required to withdraw from all Iraqi towns and cities by June 30 and pull out from the rest of the country by the end of 2011."
Let's pull the U.S. troops out of Iraq combat now! Peace Now! One War To End!
End it now! Peace! Peace brother, Peace!