September 18, 2007
General David Petraeus has faced many an enemy in Iraq. Facing his friends in Britain may prove to be a tough diplomatic battle, too.
Only a couple weeks ago, the British handed Basra back to the Iraqis and moved their remaining troops to a safer base at the airport.
Soon, America's closest ally in Iraq will draw down to 5,000 troops, at a time when the U.S. could use the extra boots.
That's why analysts say Petraeus's stopover in Britain on his way back to Baghdad is more than a mere courtesy call.
"It's a stiffening up call too because actually there is a danger if the
British prematurely withdraw" said Colonel Bob Stewart, former British Commander.
The general's visit comes at a time of increased pressure to change course in Iraq. Tony Blair may have chosen to send troops in but new Prime Minister Gordon Brown is being urged to pull them out.
But some military commanders are already concerned that the British pullback could threaten the main lifeline that carries food, fuel and ammunition to U.S.fighting forces in Baghdad.
"The U.S. cannot allow the supply route from Baghdad to Kuwait to be
severed, it's vital" said Stewart.
Nearly 170 British soldiers have been killed in Iraq and it remains a
deeply unpopular war here.
While the prime minister vowed that Britain would stay in Iraq to honor its obligations to the Iraqi people, he also made clear this week that Britain, not America, will decide how long its troops will remain.
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