’S IRAQ MISSION DRAWS TO A CLOSE
31 Mar 09. The UK’s six-year combat mission in Iraq begins to draw to a close today, with the re-drawing of the Coalition regional structure in the south of the country. In a Written Ministerial Statement, Defence Secretary John Hutton MP today confirmed that the current structure of two multi-national areas, one controlled by the UK and one by the US, will be merged into a single area. The new Division, known as Multi-National Division-South (MND-S), will be under the command of US Major General Michael Oates. The UK’s General Officer Commanding, Major General Andy Salmon, who commanded the old Multi-National Division-South East, returns to Britain with his headquarters staff. The change marks what British Forces describe as their Divisional Drawdown. The 4,100 UK personnel currently stationed in and around Basra will now be withdrawn, leaving behind just 400 by the end of July. John Hutton said: “Today’s restructuring reflects the success of our armed forces, our Coalition partners and of the Iraqis themselves. The Iraqis are now firmly in control of their own security in Basra and it is this that allows us to begin the process of drawing down our forces from Iraq.
The Iraqis have not reached this point on their own. Thousands of British servicemen and women have stood shoulder to shoulder with them during the past six years. Thanks to their shared commitment, sacrifice and resilience, Basra is now a much safer city with a bright economic future, which has put behind it the fear, misery and oppression endured under Saddam’s regime. I am immensely proud of all that our people have achieved.”
The full text of the Written Ministerial Statement is as follows: Iraq: Coalition Regional Commands.
The Secretary of State for Defence (Rt Hon John Hutton): I should like to make a statement on the restructuring of Coalition regional commands in southern Iraq. The House will be aware from my statement of 25 November 2008 (Official Report, column 57WS) and the Foreign Secretary’s statement of 25 March 2009 (Official Report, column 326) that Coalition forces providing support to the Iraqi Security Forces in the area south of Baghdad have to date been organised into two multi-national areas: Multi-National Division-South East (MND-South East) under UK leadership covering Basra province, and MND-Centre under US leadership, covering the other eight Iraqi provinces. As indicated in those two statements, in future only a single multi-national divisional headquarters will be required south of Baghdad. Due to the improved security situation and the continued demonstration by the Iraqi Security Forces that they are able to deliver security in southern Iraq with only minimal Coalition assistance, the anticipated change in Coalition command structures has taken place today.
MND-South East and MND-Centre have been merged to create a new Multi-National Divisional area, MND-South. The headquarters for MND-South will be located on the site of the Contingency Operating Base outside Basra, and will provide support to the Iraqi Security Forces under US leadership across all nine provinces in southern Iraq.
UK forces from 20 Armoured Brigade will complete their remaining military tasks in southern Iraq as part of MND-South and then withdraw before the end of July. We have also deployed logistics specialists in order to support the withdrawal. US forces in southern Iraq will continue to focus on their training of the Iraqi Police and Department of Border Enforcement and on supporting the overall coalition mission in Iraq, including through the protection of key supply routes.
We are currently discussing with the Government of Iraq the precise scope of the military training that they would like the UK to provide as part of the enduring, broad-based defence relationship with Iraq which the Prime Minister outlined on 18 December 2008 (Official Report, columns 1233-1235). On current plans, this woul