Michael Ware


SAT: Basra recap

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Length: 2:56

BETTY NGUYEN: Now to Basra. Shiite leaders and British Army chief General Dannatt are in agreement; the presence of British soldiers in Iraq seem to incite even more bloodshed. During an interview with ITN, Dannatt discussed withdrawing British troops. Take a listen.


GEN. RICHARD DANNATT, BRITISH ARMY CHIEF: We don't want to be there forever. We have been there for three and a half years; three and a half years ago we had some 20-30,000 soldiers there. We're now down to 7,500. Indeed, in southeast Iraq, which the British are responsible for, there are four provinces. We've already had handed two of those provinces over to Iraqi control, and the third province we're well on the way to. So we're going in the right direction.


NGUYEN: So while British soldiers are praised for their so-called gentler approach to the policing the region, Shiites insists their presence creates targets for attackers.

CNN's Michael Ware is in Basra with more.


MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: From here on the ground in southern Iraq, it seems that General Dannatt is not alone in his concerns. There is a belief among some British officers that the mere presence of British troops is inciting attacks.

In Maysan Province, where much British blood has been spilled and where six Royal Military police officers were executed by a Shia militia in 2003, a British battle group was garrisoned in the main town. Over five months, the camp was hit by 281 mortars, prompting the battle group commander to empty the garrison and disperse his forces into the desert. Now speaking days before General Dannatt went public with his concerns, the battle group commander said that one of the major reasons behind his decision to empty the garrison was that the base had become a magnet for attacks.

LT. COL. SIMON BROWNE, BRITISH ARMY: I agree with what the chief of general staff has said this morning, that if we were to withdraw and put a completely Iraqi face on the security situation around here, I'm sure that things -- the ingredients are there for the situation to improve.

WARE: So it seems that General Dannatt is reflecting the concerns of some of his commanders here on the ground. Indeed, senior British diplomats here in Basra highlighted the fact that political factions in the southern part of the country gain traction and credibility on the street for strikes against British forces.

While no one here is suggesting that it is time for a withdrawal immediately, there are indications from military and diplomatic officers that that time for departure may be coming sooner than many people think. Michael Ware, CNN, Basra.