(from PMQs this week)
The Prime Minister: It is our policy to withdraw progressively from Iraq as the Iraqi forces are capable of taking on the security task. That is why it is important, when we are able to hand over to them, that we do so; otherwise we are a provocation rather than a help to them. That is why, earlier this year, we ceded control of al-Muthanna province, as there are now 5,000 Iraqi forces there doing that job. We are just withdrawing, or the Italians are, almost 3,000 forces from Dhi Qar province, where the Iraqis again will come in and do the job...
I hope that I have just explained very clearly what our strategy is. It is to withdraw progressively as the Iraqi forces build up their capability. For example, in the south of Iraq for the first time, there are 10,000 Iraqi troops who are trained to the fullest extent. They are very capable, and are doing an excellent job under the command of the Iraqi Army.
(from today's Independent)
"The militia headed by the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr yesterday took over the southern Iraqi city of Amarah, recently vacated by British forces, after a day of heavy fighting which left dozens killed, almost 100 injured and widespread damage to buildings.
In what is being seen as a symbolic flexing of muscle, heavily armed Mahdi Army fighters in black uniforms stormed and took over the three main police stations and flattened them with explosives.
British troops were put on standby to move back into Amarah last night as Mr Sadr's militia battles the rival Shia Badr Brigade for the control of the south and its lucrative oil fields.
Amid conflicting reports about who exactly was controlling the capital of Maysan province two companies of the Iraqi army with British "advisers" were despatched from Basra. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Nour al-Maliki, sent a high-powered delegation from Baghdad to seek talks with Mr Sadr's representatives."