The withdrawal of British troops from Basra was delayed by five months due to political pressure from the US, a UK military commander in Iraq has said.
British troops are now based at Basra Airport following the handover
Brig James Bashall told the Daily Telegraph the exit from Basra Palace was held up because the "Americans asked us to stay for longer".
The paper says during their final months at the base, 11 British soldiers were killed and 62 were injured.
An MoD spokesman insisted the move took place when conditions were right.
Brig Bashall said that a pull-out in April "would have been the right thing to do but politics prevented that".
Basra Palace was handed over to the Iraqi authorities on 3 September.
About 550 British soldiers left the base to join other UK troops at Basra Airport outside the city.
Brig Bashall, the commander of 1 Mechanised Brigade, said that after the six-month Operation Sinbad to impose security on Basra was finished in April "we could have come out and done the transition completely".
The decision to stay on longer was a result of "political strategy being played out at highest level," he added.
A spokesman for the MoD said the handover took place only once Iraqi forces had been fully trained.
He added: "The decision to hand over Basra Palace was part of a conditions-based transition, developed in consultation with the Iraqi government and our coalition partners.
"We handed Basra Palace over this month only when the conditions were right and the Iraqi forces were ready to take over.
"The government of Iraq decided in May it wanted to keep Basra Palace, and it then took time to form and train the Iraqi Palace Protection Force to the point that it could take over Basra Palace."
Meanwhile, President George Bush's top military and political advisers are to begin two days of testimony before Congress on the US "troop surge" in Iraq.
Gen David Petraeus and ambassador Ryan Crocker's reports have been billed as "make or break" for President Bush's resolve to stay the course in Iraq.
Some 30,000 US troops arrived in the surge between February and June, taking the total number to a high of 168,000.