My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence (Mr Des Browne) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
On 18 July in a Written Ministerial Statement I confirmed the details of the force package for the next routine roulement of UK forces in Iraq in November when the lead UK formation, currently 20 Armoured Brigade, will be replaced by 19 Light Brigade. I would now like to confirm some of the details of preparations for this roulement. As for previous roulements, elements of the theatre reserve battalion, currently the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, will be deployed to provide additional security during what is always a period of intense activity for UK forces. There will also be some additional support aimed at contributing to improving security in Basra city.
In total this involves approximately 360 additional personnel. They will begin deploying shortly and complete their work not later than January 2007.
This is a critical period for the Iraqi people and their Government. There is an opportunity to improve significantly the security situation in Basra city—building on, and reinforcing, recent progress in Baghdad. Improved security in Basra will create the conditions for the important civil development work being led by the UK’s provincial reconstruction team. Therefore I have agreed that the deployment of troops from the theatre reserve battalion, while strictly time limited, should on this occasion be brought forward and extended by a short period. In addition, I have also authorised the deployment of Royal Engineers to assist with reconstruction and countering the threat from improvised explosive devices, a Royal Marine boat troop to assist in tightening security on the Shatt Al Arab waterway, and a troop of Royal Military Police to augment our training of the Iraqi police.
We ask our service men and women to discharge difficult and dangerous tasks. But over the next few months, through security operations and civil development projects, we have a key opportunity to make improvements to the lives of the people of Basra and lay the foundations for the departure, once the conditions are right, of coalition forces from front-line roles in Iraq.