Lieutenant-General Nick Houghton, who is second in command of allied forces in Iraq, said that a four-stage disengagement of Britain's 8,000-strong contingent was likely to begin this spring or at the latest by the end of the summer. "There is a fine line between staying too long and leaving too soon," he said.
The gradual handover of authority for the four provinces under British control would ensure that the Iraqi people understood that British troops were not going to stay for ever.
"A military transition over two years has a reasonable chance of avoiding the pitfalls of overstaying our welcome but gives us the best opportunity of consolidating the Iraqi security force," General Houghton told The Daily Telegraph.
The timetable would only be adhered to if sectarian tensions, which are at an all-time high after the destruction of a Shia mosque in Samarra, did not worsen. Tony Blair has until now refused to lay out a timetable for the withdrawal of British troops.
Times OnlineLast Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16