This week, media reports indicated that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will soon announce a final timetable for the withdrawal of Britain’s remaining 4,000 troops from southern Iraq by the end of the year. In an interview with the Observer, President Bush, who arrives in London tomorrow, issued a “stern” warning to Brown urging him not to “announce a timetable for a British pull-out from Iraq”:
But while he said both allies obviously wanted to bring their troops home, this could only be ‘based upon success’. On the reported possibility of a formal timetable for major reductions, Bush was unequivocal: ‘Our answer is: there should be no definitive timetable.’
He pointedly noted that Brown had retreated last year on the scale of an earlier planned pullout – and that Britain still had 4,200 soldiers in Iraq rather than the projected 3,500. ‘I am confident that he, like me, will listen to our commanders to make sure that the sacrifices that have gone forward won’t be unravelled by draw-downs that may not be warranted at this point in time. I look forward to discussing it with him.’
Bush also delivered “a major policy address during his final presidential trip to Europe not in Britain, but France – which he called America’s ‘first friend,’” the Guardian notes.