Brown talks about withdrawal from Iraq

The British prime minister promises a "fundamental change" in the mission of his country's troops in Iraq.

Published July 22, 2008 3:10PM (EDT)

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown signaled on Tuesday that a withdrawal of his country's remaining troops in Iraq could be coming within the next two years.

"Just as last year we moved from combat to 'overwatch,' we would expect a further fundamental change of mission in the first months of 2009 as we make the transition to a long-term bilateral partnership with Iraq, similar to the normal relationships which our military forces have with other important countries in the region," Brown said in a statement to the House of Commons, according to the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper.

About 4,000 British troops are currently in Iraq, mostly based at the airport near the southern city of Basra. A plan to withdraw about 1,500 of them earlier this year was put on hold.

On the domestic front, this seems like just more good news for Barack Obama. He really couldn't have asked for better timing for his overseas trip, considering the way two important foreign leaders -- Brown and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki -- have made statements either directly supportive of his Iraq plan, in Maliki's case, or that at least provide indirect support for it, as Brown did by paving the way for his country's withdrawal.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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