Hoon announces deployment of 1,200 to Iraq

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has announced that around 1,200 British troops will be sent to Iraq in the coming weeks.

The extra deployment has been ordered following a review of troop numbers in Iraq and a spate of attacks on British forces personnel in the Gulf state.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman insisted today that the extra response was not a knee-jerk reaction, but was aimed at improving Iraq’s infrastructure and help establish an Iraqi government.

However, Tory shadow defence secretary Bernard Jenkin argued that while the deployment was “a necessary step”, it was also “a humiliation” for a government, while Paul Keetch, the Lib Dem defence spokesman called the announcement of extra troops a “drop in the ocean” and insisted that a multinational force under UN command was needed in Iraq.

Mr Hoon, already facing staunch opposition as a result of information coming to light as part of the Hutton Inquiry, said there was an “immediate requirement” for two battalions, plus some additional specialist personnel and equipment and added that a full review of force strength was under way and “the full scale of the requirement … has yet to be developed.”

“We are determined to help the Iraqi people to a new, peaceful and secure future for themselves and we will meet this commitment with appropriate forces in Iraq for as long as required and no longer,” Mr Hoon insisted

The troops will come from the 2nd Battalion The Light Infantry and 1st Battalion The Royal Green Jackets.

There are currently about 10,000 British soldiers in Iraq, but the security situation in the UK-controlled south of the country appears to be worsening, as the British come under fire for failing to restore essential services quickly enough.

Over the weekend, 120 troops from the second battalion light infantry flew to Basra out of RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

50 UK soldiers have been killed in Iraq, 17 since the end of major combat operations was declared on May 1st.

One of the latest soldiers killed in Iraq, Royal Military Police officer Matthew Titchener, will be laid to rest in Troon, Ayrshire today.

Yesterday, a member of Iraq’s new governing council called for US and British soldiers to be pulled out of Baghdad and other major cities within six months. The deployment of yet more troops is likely to prove unpopular with the Iraqi people, many of whom are keen to see an independent government established as soon as possible.

Minister Ayham al-Samaraie said coalition forces should move into the countryside by the beginning of next year and let the Iraqi army take over in urban areas. However the coalition has set no date for the scaling down of operations in Iraq.