LONDON (AP) – British Prime Minister Gordon Brown told lawmakers Thursday that Britain will leave fewer than 400 troops in Iraq following a major withdrawal of forces between May and July of 2009.
He told the House of Commons that the bulk of the country’s 4,100 troops will be pulled out of southern Iraq beginning May 31, 2009, when a mission to train Iraqi soldiers and police is completed.
Brown set out details of the withdrawal plan after a one-day visit on Wednesday to meet Iraqi leaders in Baghdad and British troops in the country’s south.
Britain’s troops are stationed mainly at a camp close to an airport in the southern city of Basra, Iraq’s second-largest urban center.
Britain has provided the second-largest military presence in Iraq after the U.S. At the height of combat operations in March and April 2003, Britain had 46,000 troops in Iraq. A total of 178 servicemen and women have died.
U.S. troops will take over Britain’s base once the troops leave.
Opposition lawmakers said they would now press Brown to hold a full public inquiry to examine mistakes made in the run up to the U.S.-led 2003 invasion and errors in postwar planning.
“Now that we know our troops are being withdrawn there is no excuse not to have the inquiry into the Iraq war that we have demanded,” said opposition Conservative Party lawmaker Liam Fox. “We need to learn the lessons from Iraq so that we do not repeat the mistakes in places such as Afghanistan.”
Brown has said previously that his government would hold an inquiry, but not until Britain’s troops had left Iraq.