Does the situation in southern Iraq warrant a withdrawal of 1000 troops? Some believe this is just pre-election political posturing by the Labour Party:
UK troops in Basra cut by 1,000

UK troops in Basra are to be cut by 1,000 by the end of the year, Gordon Brown has said on a visit to Iraq.

Mr Brown also confirmed Basra province could be handed over to full Iraqi control within the next two months.

The Ministry of Defence announced in July that 500 troops would be withdrawn - 270 of whom are already back home.

The remaining 230 and a further 500 should be home for Christmas, Mr Brown has said. After that, 4,500 UK troops will remain, at the Basra Airport base.

'Difficult job'

The announcement was branded "cynical politics" by the Conservatives while the Liberal Democrats called for a timetable for the withdrawal of all UK troops.

Speaking in Baghdad, the prime minister said: "What we propose to do over these next few months is to move from a situation where we have a combat role to an overwatch role."

This would involve the present British force of 5,500 being cut to 4,500 - freeing up the troops for other duties, he said.

"Hopefully they will be home by Christmas," Mr Brown told reporters.

Mr Brown, on his first visit to Iraq since becoming prime minister, also announced plans for a new investment agency and development fund for Basra to help regenerate the economy.

He called for a renewed effort by the Iraqi political parties to achieve political reconciliation.

"I am very proud of what our armed forces are achieving here. I believe they have acted with great courage, professionalism and bravery," he said.

"We will discharge our obligations to the Iraqi people and to the international community and we will discharge our obligations to our armed forces, who are doing this difficult job."
Source: BBC NEWS | UK | UK troops in Basra cut by 1,000