WASHINGTON (AFP) — Defense Minister Des Browne said Thursday any decision on transitioning Iraqi security control should be based on conditions on the ground, rather than on a preset timetable.
Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki raised the demand for a withdrawal timetable for the first time this week as part of negotiations on the status of US and coalition forces in Iraq.
"I'm no fan of timelines in changing operational environments like in Iraq or Afghanistan," Browne said, echoing the US position during a question and answer session at a US think tank here.
"My attitude toward this is to stick with the formula I developed in the first week of this job which is to say decisions would be conditions-based and based on advice from commanders," he said.
"That doesn't mean that on occasion you don't have to change, because the fact of the matter that our presence in all of these environment changes the environments," he added.
Browne, who was in Washington to mark the 50th anniversary of UK-US Mutual Defense Agreement, was scheduled to meet later with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Speaking at the Brookings Institution, Browne offered upbeat assessments on the situations in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
He said Iraq had "turned a corner" over the past six months as a result of the surge strategy led by General David Petraeus and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker.
But he said he had "no qualms" about Britain having pulled its troops out of downtown Basra nearly year ago, which left a security vacuum in the strategic port city that was filled by rival militias.
"We recognized the problems in Basra were intra-Shia -- a struggle for political and economic dominance," Browne said.
"The surge could only work when local political conditions were right. Only the Iraqis could resolve these problems and, when they were able to do so, they did," he said.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »