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Britain's Reid: Iraq Withdrawal Requires Capable Troops


Britain's Secretary of Defense says trained, capable Iraqi troops and a broad representative government are the keys to a successful Iraq, as well as the exit strategy for coalition forces. John Reid told an audience Wednesday that achieving these goals is the highest priority.

Secretary of Defense Reid says Britain's 8,000 troops will leave Iraq when their mission there is complete.

"We will leave Iraq when the job is done. When will the job be done?" he asked. "When the Iraqi government, itself democratically elected, says we now have the security forces to counter the terrorist threat and their attempts to bring down democracy. As soon as they say that is now their position, then we will be off."

But the Scottish-born defense secretary told a Washington audience not to expect an exodus of troops all at once.

"That will not be an event which happens everywhere in Iraq on the one day, it will be a process that will start in some provinces sooner than in others, but as soon as the Iraqis themselves feel they are capable to defend their own democracy, then that process of handover will begin," said Reid. "Until that stage, we and the other nations - predominantly the United States, but other nations as well - we will be there as long as it takes."

Reid is in Washington this week for meetings on Iraq and Afghanistan with top Bush administration officials, including his counterpart Donald Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. He reiterated Britain's support for its commitment in Iraq.

"This is not the time for shaky nerves and lack of will to see this through in Iraq," he said. "This is the time for firm resolve and for seeing through the commitment we gave to the democratic politicians of Iraq and to the courageous people of Iraq."

Britain is also in the process of expanding its troop presence in Afghanistan. About 1,000 British troops are already on the ground there as part of the NATO mission. Those numbers are slated to rise to about 5,700. Reid said British troops are in that country to help the democratically-elected government of President Hamid Karzai to develop its government, economy and security forces so that it will never fall under the control of the Taleban or other terrorists again.

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