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Basra weary of US forces as British forces depart


Army.ca Fixture
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Just great. One local person's impression of US troops is based on Vietnam War-era movies like Full Metal Jacket, probably dubbed in Arabic.  ::) (Or wouldn't they speak more of Farsi there since they are close to the Iran border?)  ???


BASRA, Iraq (Reuters) - People in the Iraqi city of Basra fear the U.S. troops taking over from departing British forces, whose relatively light touch contrasts with the U.S. military's fearsome, and sometimes trigger-happy, reputation.

Those interviewed in Iraq's second city said British forces understood Iraq better, given Britain drew up and ran modern Iraq early in the 20th Century, and that British troops had treated them relatively well since they invaded in 2003.

"The British have studied Iraq and understand our culture and religion. Americans kill and do what they want. We've seen the British get attacked ... but they respect the citizen, and do not fire back randomly," said student Uday Jaffer.

On Tuesday British troops marked the end of their Iraq mission at a ceremony at Basra airport, their last outpost in the city. They had joined U.S. forces as Washington's main partner in its "coalition of the willing," which toppled Saddam Hussein six years ago.

Some 4,000 British troops stationed in Basra will gradually withdraw over the coming months, and the U.S. military will use the city's airport as its command centre for Iraq's south.

Iraqi forces are responsible for security in the south, but Britain has been helping with training and other support. British soldiers are a common sight in Basra.

"We hope that the U.S. forces are like the British. There is fear unfortunately ... We've all seen Vietnam war films. Their military operations are frightful," said Abdul Aali al-Moussawi, one of Basra's respected Shi'ite clerics.


Some 850 U.S. military police have been in Basra since August training Iraqi police, but they are little noticed.

U.S. Major General Michael Oates, who from Tuesday will command U.S. and British troops in all of Iraq's nine southern provinces, said the people of Basra had nothing to fear.

"We don't have a more heavy-handed approach ... There's a misperception about American forces, and when you work with us you'll see we're very kind people," he told Reuters.