ALTHOUGH no formal announcement has been made, most people know that Britain is withdrawing its forces from Iraq.
President Bush must know, and presumably mentioned the tricky subject to Mr Brown when they met recently, although nothing was said at their press conference. Yesterday the New York Times brought the matter into the open in a leading article entitled “The wrong way to get out of Iraq”.

It complained that British forces would be down to 5'000 by the end of summer from 30'000 in 2003; furthermore those remaining will have retreated to Basra airport, leaving the city of more than a million people to inadequately trained police and security forces. But it did not say what would be the right way to get out.

Essentially the New York Times believes that Britain has failed in southern Iraq; it thinks that when UK forces withdraw it will be found that they have achieved little or nothing towards making Basra and its hinterland safe for the future. And it warns those in America who think that a similar policy of scaling down the US presence in Baghdad would solve the problems in the rest of Iraq to think again.

It says: “The United States cannot walk away from the new international terrorist front it created in Iraq...It is folly to expect a much smaller US force to do in a short time what a much longer force could not do over a very long time.”