From spring 2008, around 2,500 British forces personnel will be based in southern Iraq, with the majority located at the contingency operating base at Basra air station.
The mission objectives are to enhance border security and deter and intercept the smuggling of illegal weapons through the training and mentoring of Department of Border Enforcement personnel and by discrete supporting operations.
I hold regular discussions with the US Defense Secretary on issues of mutual interest, including the situation in Iraq.
While there are still problems and challenges to be overcome, the general security situation in Basra province remains relatively stable and attacks against coalition forces have reduced sharply in recent months. Crime rates in Basra during September remain similar to the levels prior to the handover of Basra palace to Iraqi control. Where security incidents have occurred, the Iraqi security forces, under the leadership of General Mohan, have demonstrated their ability to deal with them swiftly and effectively.
The three other provinces in Multi-National Division South East are all under provincial Iraqi control. The overall security situation in all three is generally stable, and where isolated incidents of violence have occurred, the Iraqi security forces have again demonstrated that they are well able to deal with them effectively.
I have regular discussions with my US counterpart on issues of mutual interest, including the deployment of British forces in support of Operation Telic.
The MOD has not employed private military or security companies to provide force protection for its military personnel deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan. ArmorGroup was contracted to provide guards for the UK Defence Advisers' accommodation in Kabul for three months.
[holding answer 11 October 2007]: The Prime Minister made clear the position with respect to future UK force levels in southern Iraq in his statement to the House on 8 October.
Reductions in UK force levels in Southern Iraq below the level of 4,500 are planned to result in troops being withdrawn from the region to their home bases in the UK and Germany.
[holding answer 11 October 2007]: The move of logistics and support personnel out of Iraq will straddle the roulement of UK forces. As a result some will transfer from Basra while others may deploy directly from the UK or Germany. It is not possible to provide a breakdown at this stage. It is planned that this process will be complete by the end of the year.
[holding answer 11 October 2007]: Force Protection arrangements at Basra airfield are complex, multi layered and constantly evolving to respond to the changing security situation. Royal Air Force, British Army and coalition personnel contribute to this in many different roles. It is not practicable to give the cap badge of every military personnel involved at any particular time.
[holding answer 11 October 2007]: The drawdown of forces to 4,000 is conditions-based. No date has been set.
500 troops are in the process of returning to home bases now. The process of moving 500 logistic and support staff from Iraq to elsewhere in the region will also begin shortly. This process will extend over the next roulement of forces. Some troops will reposition directly from Iraq and others will return to the UK and will be replaced by troops who will deploy from UK and Germany to new locations in the region. It is not possible to determine the precise breakdown at this stage.
Further reductions will involve troops returning to their home bases.