Iraq confirms departure of last British forces

22nd May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain's naval training mission in Iraq concluded on Sunday and there are no more British military personnel in the country, Baghdad's government spokesman told AFP.

"Yes, they have finished," Ali al-Dabbagh said in a text message in response to a question asking whether British forces had finished the mission.

Asked to confirm that there were no more British soldiers or sailors left in Iraq as part of the mission, Dabbagh replied: "Yes."

Britain was the second-largest contributor to the US-led invasion of 2003 but pulled out in July 2009 from the main southern city of Basra, where most of its troops were based.

Since then, the Royal Navy has continued to train Iraqi naval personnel to defend their territorial waters and offshore oil installations.

A small number of staff will remain at the British embassy in Baghdad.

A total of 179 British personnel lost their lives in Iraq in the past eight years.

The navy's role involved training 1,800 Iraqi personnel on 50 different courses ranging from oil platform defence to handling small arms.

British forces will continue to support NATO's officer training programme, while some Iraqi soldiers will attend the army's officer training college at Sandhurst.

© 2011 AFP

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