Smoke break: British troops watch from their armored vehicle during a ceremony marking the opening of a new Iraqi army division headquarters in Basra on Nov. 7.
Perhaps Basra can be seen as a test case for the rest of Iraq with regard to withdrawal and its effects: According to Maj. Gen. Graham Binns, the commander of British forces in Basra, there has been a “remarkable and dramatic drop in attacks” since the majority of his troops withdrew from the city.
In mid-December, British forces are scheduled to return control of Basra province back to Iraqi officials—officially ending Britain’s combat role in Iraq.
“We’ve been in that de facto role since we moved out of the palace ... but we hope the (December) transfer will symbolize the end of a period many in Basra city perceived as occupation,” Binns said.
With an overwhelmingly Shiite population, Basra has not seen the level of sectarian violence that has torn Iraq apart since the Feb. 2006 bombing of a Shiite shrine north of Baghdad.
But it has seen major fighting between insurgents and coalition troops, as well as between Shiite militias vying for control of the city and its security forces.