Even as President Bush pushes for a “surge” of U.S. involvement in Iraq, America’s closest ally in the debacle has announced yet another troop withdrawal. British Prime Minister Tony Blair today told the packed House of Commons in London the 7,100 remaining troops would be cut to 5,500 soon. He hoped that 500 more would leave by late summer.
The announcement by Blair was lauded by the Opposition. Conservative Leader David Cameron told MPs that the withdrawal would be “welcomed in this House, in the country and especially to the families of those serving in Iraq over the coming months.”
Because of Iraq, Blair has been in deep political trouble in Britain, where opinion polls suggest a deep abhorrence to the civil war in general and President Bush in particular – satirized as a cowboy not quite up to the job. The prime minister is now attempting to distance himself from his once-firm stance on Iraq. Initially, more than 40,000 British troops were stationed there.
Blair himself is expected to resign as prime minister no later than September after a 10-year tenure generally considered marred by his political commitment to Bush and the Iraqi conflict. The Labour leader is expected to be succeeded by the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, who promises to distance himself from the White House and “speak his mind.”
Earlier this week, tiny Denmark said it would withdraw its contingent of 460 troops serving under British command. Even tinier Lithuania plans to follow suit.
The U.S. has 132,000 troops in Iraq, followed by Britain with 7,100 and South Korea, at 2,300.