British Troop Drawdown from Basra

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown pledged on Monday to pull 3,000 British troops out of Basra by March of 2008, leaving only 2500, with those to be withdrawn by the end of that year. Brown’s office says that the drawdown was approved by US Gen. David Petraeus.

Military analysts point out that the effective force in Basra will really only be 1250, since that is all the troops that could be spared for an operation in Basra or another nearby trouble spot, while the other 1250 would need to remain to secure the base. In turn, one could imagine a perilous situation emerging in Basra (population 1.5 million), dealing with which would require more than 1250 troops.

Some observers worry that the British contingent could get so small that it might be overwhelmed by militant Shiite militiamen, and be forced to evacuate by helicopter, as in the last days of the US in Saigon.

It is also unclear that the British could any longer, as of next March, effectively provide a security umbrella for US fuel and supply convoys going from Basra, Umm Qasr and Kuwait up north through Shiite territory to Baghdad and other sites of US military activity. The Iraqi 10th Army Division seems unlikely to be able to play that role so soon. My guess is that the US will have to station troops in Basra.

Others point out that the troops drawn down from Basra will likely be sent to Afghanistan, where British casualties are mounting in the face of attacks by Pushtun guerrillas. (The increasingly dangerous situation in Afghanistan gets little press in the United States.)

At our Global Affairs joint blog, Dick Norton’s “The Lebanese Impasse”. In my experience, most people are also not paying attention to the crisis in Lebanon and the way in which Bushco policies are exacerbating it.

At the Napoleon’s Egypt Blog, Rozis describes the tribulations of the first modern Western invasion of a major Middle Eastern region. Among other things he says, “They [the Mamluks] are not in the least afraid of our cavalry: to say the truth, we have not much of it; they are only intimidated by our artillery: they rush upon our bayonets, as the wild boar does upon the hunters when he is wounded. They have no cannon; if they had, no nation on earth would be able to subdue them. We were many days without water or bread, or victuals of any kind; and even without means of procuring any. In five or six days, I speak without exaggeration, we lost six or seven hundred men by thirst alone!!!”

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