Brown could pull half of Iraq force out by New Year
( Dailymail ) - Gordon Brown is preparing to withdraw a significant number of Britain's remaining troops in Iraq before the end of the year, say Government sources.
As many as half of the 5,500 force could be on their way home by the end of the year.
Insiders say that the Prime Minister will next week make a "significant" announcement to Parliament as he sets out a clear strategic direction on Iraq.
He is expected to confirm the handover of Basra, the last remaining province in British hands, to full Iraqi control, and to outline a timetable for the departure of most British forces in Iraq next year.
Under a series of scenarios being drawn up by aides, between 2,000 and 3,000 troops would remain in Iraq into next year in an "overwatch" role - ready to intervene in an emergency if called on by the Iraqi or US authorities.
They would also continue to train the Iraqi military and police, and protect the supply route from neighbouring Kuwait.
All of Britain's remaining troops in Iraq are now consolidated at Basra air base on the edge of the city after the last remaining soldiers pulled out of Basra Palace last month.
Since he became Prime Minister, Mr Brown has gradually distanced himself from Mr Blair's policy on Iraq.
Recent polls show that more than two-thirds of the public think British troops are losing the war in Iraq, and over half believe the war is already lost.
However, military observers believe that any pull-out of troops in Iraq will coincide with the announcement of more troops going to Afghanistan and the numbers are more likely to be in the region of 550 - the size of a battalion.