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File photo: British troops in Basra, Iraq. Lewis Whyld/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Final British forces withdraw from Iraq

Today British forces officially leave Iraq – after eight years of armed conflict that deeply divided opinion across the world.

THE LAST OF Britain’s forces in Iraq have left the country today, with the departure of a small Royal Navy team that had stayed on to provide training to Iraqi sailors and marines.

Britain withdrew the majority of its forces from the country in mid-2009.

Forces first entered Iraq in 2003, and at the peak of the mission some 46,000 troops were deployed, the BBC reports.

The conflict created huge controversy across the world which was further inflamed when, following the fall of the country’s dictator Saddam Hussein, no weapons of mass destruction were uncovered – the existence of which had been the purported reason for the invasion.

Britain’s operations in Iraq are now subject to investigation by the Chilcot Inquiry, which has yet to make rulings on various issues raised.

A total of 179 British personnel have lost their lives during the Iraq war. Opinion is divided about the number of Iraqis that have been killed in the conflict, with casualty figures ranging from 100,971 civilian deaths (Iraq Body Count Project) to 601,027 (Lancet survey).

The commander of British forces in Iraq, Brigadier Max Marriner, said that British forces should be proud of the freedom they have helped to bring to the people of Iraq, reports the Telegraph: “The UK armed forces can look back with pride at what they have achieved – security has fundamentally improved and as a consequence the social and economic development of the south has changed for the better, as too have people’s lives,” he said.

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