Monday, November 19, 2007

90% drop in violence in Basra AFTER British pullback

In the International Herald Tribune, in Basra, violence is a tenth of what it was before British pullback, general says.

Key quotes:
Attacks against British and Iraqi forces have plunged by 90 percent in southern Iraq since London withdrew its troops from the main city of Basra, the commander of British forces there said Thursday.

The presence of British forces in downtown Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, was the single largest instigator of violence, Maj. Gen. Graham Binns told reporters Thursday on a visit to Baghdad's Green Zone.

"We thought, 'If 90 percent of the violence is directed at us, what would happen if we stepped back?'" Binns said.

Britain's 5,000 troops moved out of a former Saddam Hussein palace at Basra's heart in early September, setting up a garrison at an airport on the city's edge. Since that pullback, there's been a "remarkable and dramatic drop in attacks," Binns said.

"The motivation for attacking us was gone, because we're no longer patrolling the streets," he said.

Obviously, Basra isn't Baghdad. Basra was predominantly a monoculture and controlled by one group, Al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. However, it does seem to shoot some serious holes in the "if we leave Iraq, the whole place will blow itself up!" argument from the right.