These plans will see greater emphasis on the training of the Iraqi Security Forces and, in the view of progress they continue to make, the phased closure of a number of bases in MND(SE). This process will permit a reduction in UK force levels from its present level of 7,100 to approximately 5,500 by the completion of the next roulement of UK forces in June 2007.
The force package that we currently plan to deploy to Iraq for this roulement during May/June 2007 will see the lead formation, currently 19 Light Brigade, replaced by 1 Mechanised Brigade, which will take over the command of UK forces in early June. The other major units that will deploy are as follows:
1 Mechanised Brigade Headquarters and Signal Squadron (215 Signal Squadron Royal Signals)
2 x squadrons from the Household Cavalry Regiment
The King's Royal Hussars
2 x squadrons from the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment
1st Battalion Irish Guards
1 x company from 1st Battalion The Royal Welsh
2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh
4th Battalion The Rifles
1st Regiment Royal Horse Artillery
22 Engineer Regiment
1 x squadron from 23 Pioneer Regiment Royal Logistic Corps
3 Logistic Support Regiment Royal Logistic Corps
1 x Company from 6 Battalion Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Bravo (16) Close Medical Support Squadron, 3 Close Support Medical Regiment Royal Army Medical Corps
158 Provost Company 3rd Regiment Royal Military Police
22 Battery, 32 Regiment Royal Artillery
34 Field Hospital Royal Army Medical Corps
Members of the reserve forces will continue to deploy to Iraq as part of this force package, and we expect to have eventually issued in the order of 300 call-out notices in order to fill some 260 posts. On completion of their mobilisation procedures, the reservists will undertake a period of training and integration with their respective receiving units. For the majority, their deployment to theatre will commence in May and most will serve on operations for six to seven months, although some may have shorter tours. The reservists will perform a wide range of activities including force protection duties, medical support and individual reinforcement to units. As part of this commitment, we expect up to 20 members of the sponsored reserves to be in theatre at any one time.
I emphasise that the force package we deploy in May/June will depend on conditions on the ground, in particular the security situation in the south and progress on handover of security responsibility to the Iraqi civil authorities over the months to come. I very much hope that continued positive progress in these areas will enable adjustments later in the year to the force package we deploy and we will continue to keep UK force levels in Iraq under review. I will, of course, inform Parliament of any changes to these plans at the earliest opportunity.