Granted, the word parsing of 'scaling back' vs. 'withdrawal' is as annoying as our White House's spin doctoring, but any time you are talking about cutting your troops by 20%+ (rather than McCain's suggestion of adding troops), I have to believe that you're a little closer to the reality-based community than the talking heads here are.
Bloomberg: (h/t GM)
U.K. Defense Secretary Des Browne said the number of British troops in Iraq may be reduced by thousands next year, while stressing that a pullback doesn't mean a withdrawal.
"By the end of next year, I expect numbers of British forces in Iraq to be significantly lower, by a matter of thousands," Browne said today during a speech at the London- based policy research institute, Chatham House. "Scaling back doesn't mean a withdrawal" because "even when all the provinces are handed over, we will still be providing a force to mentor and back up the Iraqi army and police and protect coalition supply routes."
Britain has handed Iraqi forces control of two of the four southern provinces it has been responsible for since the 2003 invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein. Al-Muthanna was transferred in July and Dhi Qar was handed over in September. Maysan is due to be ceded in January and Basra in the spring.
U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair has been under pressure to devise a new Iraq strategy amid an increasing British death toll and escalating violence between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. Browne denied his comments indicated a change of policy, saying "what is changing isn't the strategy, but the pace at which it unfolds."
Military planners have been working on plans to reduce British forces in Iraq, who currently number about 7,200, the defense minister said. Read full article here.