Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Fresh pressure on Blair as public back calls for early withdrawal
Julian Glover, Richard Norton-Taylor and Patrick Wintour
Tuesday October 24, 2006
"A clear majority of voters want British troops to be pulled out of Iraq by the end of this year, regardless of the consequences for the country, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today.
In a sign that public opinion is hardening against Britain's military presence in Iraq, 61% of voters say they want British troops to leave this year, even if they have not completed their mission and Washington wants them to stay.
Only 30% now back the prime minister's commitment to keep troops in Iraq as long as is considered necessary.
Almost half of those questioned - 45% - want British forces pulled out immediately and a further 16% want them to leave by the end of the year, whether or not the US asks the British government to keep them on. When the Guardian last questioned voters on the issue in September 2005, 51% backed troop withdrawal with 41% arguing that British forces should stay in Iraq until the security situation in the country had improved.
The ICM poll carried out last weekend, suggests particularly strong support for early troop withdrawal among women and young voters, with 51% of women voters wanting troops pulled out now and only 24% backing them staying beyond Christmas.
Senior defence officials say the total number of British troops in Iraq could be cut by as much as half by next summer.
That timetable, however, may still depend on the reaction of US commanders concerned about the impact at home and abroad of a significant British pullout."