Britain's Defense Secretary announced in parliament that more British troops
will be heading to Iraq before the June 30 handover of sovereignty to an interim
The announcement of the additional British troops was anticipated, but the
figure of 370 was below what many expected.
Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said the deployment reflects the increased threat
faced by British forces in southern Iraq. The new forces will include more
armor, specifically Warrior personnel carriers and royal engineers who will
harden facilities against mortar and rocket attacks.
Mr. Hoon also left open the possibility of more troop additions in the future,
if the situation warrants.
"It remains the case that we with our coalition partners are considering
levels and dispositions of forces required in Iraq in the months ahead to support
in particular the sovereign interim government of Iraq through the process
leading to the election of a transitional assembly and government early in
2005," he said. "If we judge that further changes to the U.K. military contribution
in Iraq would be appropriate to support this process, we will of course inform
the House at the earliest opportunity."
The British defense chief underlined that security is seen as absolutely
paramount right now as the handover of sovereignty looms.
"The key to allowing those people who are risking their lives to continue
their excellent work on behalf of the Iraqi people in rebuilding that country
is security," he said. "And that is why I have come to the House today to announce
this further deployment of British forces because security is the key to all
else that we need to achieve in Iraq."
Mr. Hoon was asked if there are any plans to move some of the British forces
stationed around Basra to more sensitive areas farther north, like Najaf and
Karbala. His answer was non-committal.
"There are a range of issues that we are currently considering and it is
important that we with our coalition partners continue to examine the security
situation as we move toward that hand-over," he said.
The new deployments will bring the British troop total in Iraq to nearly