British operation in Iraq comes to an end
LONDON - Britain's military operation in Iraq will finally end this weekend when the Royal Navy completes its mission to train Iraqi sailors, Defence Secretary Liam Fox said Wednesday.
Britain was the second largest contributor to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, but pulled out in July 2009 from the southern city of Basra, where most were based.
The Royal Navy has continued to train Iraqi sailors to defend their territorial waters and offshore oil installations as part of Operation Telic.
After the mission at Iraq's main naval base in Umm Qasr ends on Sunday, there will be only a "handful" of staff at the British embassy in Baghdad.
A total of 179 British personnel lost their lives in Iraq in the past eight years.
The Navy's role involved training 1,800 Iraqi personnel on 50 different courses ranging from oil platform defence to handling small arms.
British forces will continue to support NATO's officer training programme, while some Iraqi soldiers will attend the army's officer training college at Sandhurst.
"Royal Navy personnel have used their formidable skills and expertise to bring about a transformation in Iraq's naval force," Fox said.