Handing over Basra Palace to the Iraqi authorities has long been our
intention, as we have stated publicly on numerous occasions. We expect the handover to occur in the next few days.
The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) want to take full responsibility for their own security and the handover is a step towards that goal.
The decision is an Iraqi-led initiative and is part of a coalition-endorsed process, developed in
consultation with the Iraqi government, and follows the successful handover of several other bases within and around the city.
UK forces will now operate from their base at Basra Air Station, and will retain security responsibility for Basra until we hand over to Provincial Iraqi Control, which we anticipate in the autumn.
'Troop numbers will fall'
There remain a series of military tasks for our forces to provide in Basra, including further training of the ISF, which we will conduct while retaining the capability to intervene in support of the ISF should the security situation demand it.
The Secretary of State for Defence Des Browne made our intentions clear in a statement to Parliament on 19 July this year concerning the routine roulement of forces in Iraq.
He said: 'In February, the then prime minister set out our plans for Iraq in 2007, centring on changes to the posture of UK forces in Basra in Multi-National Division-South East (MND-SE) and consequent force level reductions.
UK forces have transferred control of a number of bases in and around Basra to the 10th Division of the Iraqi army.
We expect to complete the final part of these plans, involving the transfer of control of Basra Palace to the Iraqi authorities, before this roulement (in November 2007) takes place.
As a result UK force levels in Iraq will fall to around 5,000 troops.