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Britain's "overstretched" armed forces will fight in Iraq for at least another five years, according to a report by The Sunday Telegraph, published on Sunday.
British troops will remain in Iraq for at least another five years Reportedly, parts of a confidential planning document drawn up by defense chiefs, called the Operational Tour Plot, were revealed, and the document stipulates that troops will be serving on operations in the Gulf until at least 2012.
Last Friday four soldiers, two of them women, were killed in a carefully planned ambush in Basra, taking the British forces death toll in Iraq to 140. The British defense establishment allowed details of the Operational Tour Plot to be published only after the tragic incident.
Since the first invasion to Iraq in March 2003, more than half the British army - approximately 100,000 of 180,000 servicemen - has served there in various capacities.
The contents of the Operational Tour Plot, distributed last month, appear to be in marked contrast to a statement made by Tony Blair in February 2007 giving the impression that British troops would remain in Iraq for less than two years. He said: "The UK military presence will continue into 2008".
British troops will also continue to serve in Afghanistan, and some units Which are set to serve six months in Afghanistan will go to Iraq in 2012, following a stint back in their homes in the UK.
Patrick Mercer, a former infantry colonel and former Tory homeland security spokesman, said: "The reality is that many troops will remain in Iraq for the foreseeable future and continue to take casualties."