Two top British officials on Friday denied that their country's forces had failed in the mission to bring stability to southern Iraq.
"Recent weeks have brought a lot of misplaced criticism of the United Kingdom's role in southern Iraq," said Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Defense Secretary Des Browne. "It is time to set the record straight."
Writing in The Washington Post newspaper, the two officials said British forces continue to provide overall security and maintain the capability to strike against militias in their area of operations.
"We continue to play a key role in southern Iraq, contributing to securing supply routes to Baghdad, training and mentoring Iraqi security forces and building the capacity of the Iraqi border force," the officials said.
In particular, they said, British forces have trained an Iraqi army division of more than 13,000 men "that is increasingly capable and has this year made an important contribution to the drive to improve security."