According to the Mirror, at the Labour Party's annual conference Des Browne said, "The Iraqi armed forces, supported by British and U.S. forces, have taken on and defeated the militia in Basra."While echoing Prime Minister Gordon Brown's statement in July that there would be a "fundamental change of mission" early next year, a phrase understood to mean a withdrawal of troops, Browne said, "We have reached a turning point in our involvement."
The Defence Secretary's statement would mean that the remaining 4,000 British troops based in Iraq could be withdrawn soon.
Talking of the "transformation in the quality of life" for Iraqis living in the south, Browne claimed that cafes and restaurants had re-opened, women were able to walk the streets unveiled and investors were set to buy into the oil, gas and steel sectors.
For a country whose army numbers less than 1,00,000 troops, Britain has about 12,000 troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, which is a relatively high number.
Meanwhile, military commanders are hoping that troops withdrawn from Iraq would be used to boost numbers in Afghanistan, where the 8,000-strong force is over-stretched.