I say "of a sort" because the city of
Under the phased withdrawal plan, British troops would leave the
British PM Tony Blair is peddling the line that it's "mission accomplished," and a White House desperate for good news has enthusiastically endorsed that assessment.But this outbreak of feel good-ism masks a couple of realities:
First, Blair's popularity and that of the Labor Party, like President Bush and the Republican Party, has tanked and the long moribund Tories and Democrats are ascendant.The biggest reason for these reversals of fortune is that a war that Bush started but has been unable to finish has been backed to the hilt by Blair and is now widely viewed as an unmitigated disaster. (Some 132 Brits have died in the conflict, a far cry from the 3,148 Americans, but substantially more any of the 18 other Coalition nations, who have suffered a total of 124 deaths.)
In short, Blair is desperate to save his legacy. It is not unfair to say that Bush has squandered his.
Second, a British withdrawal has been all but inevitable since General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the British Army, warned publicly last October that the presence ofAlthough Dannatt was chided for his candor, he was spot-on correct and the same grisly conundrum holds true for American forces.
troops in U.K. was "exacerbating security problems" and called for a pull-out. Iraq
The biggest concern about the drawdown is that it's not at all clear that Basra is capable of running its own affairs without armed British nannies. Additionally, there has been a pattern of attacks by insurgents not long after the British (and Australians) have handed over responsibility for a particular post or area to Iraqi forces.
What is going to keep this pattern from continuing and even growing? Nothing.
The one bit of good news is that British forces will now be able to concentrate more on operations in
But in the end the British withdrawal will be the first major test of whether the Iraqis are capable of being masters of their own destiny, which begs the question of whether Blair’s "mission accomplished" line may be as pyrrhic as Bush’s.Photograph by Wisam Ahmed/Reuters