Troops' withdrawal 'too little, too late'

THE withdrawal of British troops from Basra is "too little, too late", according to the mother of a serviceman killed in Iraq.

The last British troops in Iraq were today leaving their base at Basra Palace.

The 550 soldiers are handing the palace over to Iraqi control and joining the remaining 5,000 troops at the last British base near Basra Airport.

The handover of Basra itself is now expected in the autumn.

But Pat Long, whose 24-year-old son Paul was killed in Iraq in 2003, found nothing to celebrate in the news.

The 55-year-old, from Bamford Walk, South Shields, said: "They have left it all far too late, this should have happened at long time ago.

"The best thing they can do now is get all the troops out of Iraq. They shouldn't have been there in the first place.

"It was never our war, it was America's war, and was all about oil."

Mrs Long, who has two other children, is also fearful that many of the troops will now be deployed in Afghanistan.

She said: "They're just going to be sent from one war zone to another."

The withdrawal has been met with concern by some military and political leaders in the United States.

US generals believe Britain has "lost" in Basra and are worried that American troops may have to replace British soldiers if Iraqi security forces fail to maintain order.

But last week, Foreign Secretary and South Shields MP David Miliband said London, not Washington, would make the decision on the withdrawal of British troops from Iraq.

The withdrawal comes days after former British military leader General Sir Mike Jackson launched a scathing attack on the US's War on Terror, claiming it had led to a sectarian bloodbath in Iraq.