'UK faces ugly and embarrassing withdrawal from s. Iraq'

US adviser says insurgents and militia groups likely to target soldiers to portray image of British defeat.

basra uk troops 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
basra uk troops 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
An adviser to the US military said that British troops face an "ugly and embarrassing" withdrawal from southern Iraq in the coming months, a British newspaper reported. Stephen Biddle, a member of a group that advised US Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq last year, told the Sunday Times that insurgents and militia groups were likely to target British soldiers with ambushes, roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades as they leave. "It will be a hard withdrawal. They want the image of a British defeat," Biddle told the paper. "It will be ugly and embarrassing." The Sunday Times also quoted a senior British officer as saying that British troops have lost control of the main southern city of Basra. "I regret to say that the Basra experience is set to become a major blunder in terms of military history," the officer was quoted as saying by the newspaper. "The insurgents are calling the shots ... and in a worst-case scenario will chase us out of southern Iraq." The Times quoted the British Ministry of Defense as saying that Britain was not heading for defeat. "Although the militias are trying to claim credit for 'driving us out,' they are failing," the ministry was quoted as saying. British forces have already been moving from a combat role to aiding Iraqi forces in southern Iraq, and Britain is expected to hand over control of Basra to Iraqi troops in the next few months. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has also promised to make a statement in October on the future of the 5,500 British troops in the region. A total of 168 British personnel have died in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion. Biddle, a military analyst with the Council on Foreign Relations, was a member of a group that spent weeks in Iraq last spring to advise on developing a new war strategy that envisions establishing security at the local level in Baghdad and elsewhere by the summer of 2008.