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Volume 454: debated on Monday 11 December 2006

Some 7,100 members of the UK armed forces are serving on operations in Iraq.

I am grateful for that answer. Is the Secretary of State satisfied that sufficient progress is being made in training Iraqi security forces? Does he agree that it is essential for the UK to put maximum pressure on the Iraqi Government to improve their capabilities, so that we can withdraw British troops when that is consistent with not creating a less stable situation in Iraq?

I am satisfied that progress has been made. It would be complacent to suggest from the Dispatch Box that we could not do better in training Iraqi forces, because I believe that we could. However, the forces whom we have dedicated to the role do a magnificent job in training Iraqi forces and also in improving the Iraqi police service, especially as we move through Basra city in Operation Sinbad, as we have done in past months and as we will do in future months. The hon. Gentleman is correct to say that the ability of the Iraqi security forces to handle the security of that country is key to our ability to draw down. That is not lost on anybody with an understanding of Iraq.