Gradual build-up of UK troops in Kuwait ahead of Iraq drawdown


London : There has been a gradual increase in the number of British troops permanently based in Kuwait ahead of plans to half the number deployed in Iraq to 2,500 by April, according to new figures released by Defence Secretary Des Browne.

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In a written parliamentary reply published Thursday, Browne revealed that the number of UK forces in Kuwait had grown from just 20 in the middle of last year to 330 on December 26. Previously the contingent was reduced to defence diplomacy and support operations.

By January 6, the number had further increased to 380 logistic and support personnel not including troops temporarily deployed.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced last October that 500 troops would be sent to unspecified bases in the Persian Gulf region to fulfill a supporting role as troops were reduced to 4,500 from 5,500 by the end of 2007 and cut further to 2,500 in spring.

Previously, the Daily Telegraph reported that Britain was negotiating with Kuwait about setting up a new barracks that would be operational by the end of the year and that the number going there could be about 2,500.

In a separate parliamentary answer, the British defence secretary confirmed that the number of troops stationed in Iraq was cut to 4,600 by December 26.

He also revealed that apart from Kuwait, there were a further 420 troops based in Qatar, 210 in Oman, 30 in Bahrain and 920 at sea to provide support for operations in Iraq and elsewhere in the region.