At a formal ceremony today, the British government officially handed over control of the Basra airport to American troops. The handover marked the beginning of the end for the British military presence in the nation – it hopes to have virtually all of its troops out by May 31. British troops were one of the last remnants of the Bush Administration’s “Coalition of the Willing,” which helped in the 2003 American invasion, and their departure is another reminder that soon, American forces will be operating by themselves in the nation.
The handover was cordial, but it didn’t take long for American forces to begin grousing about the living conditions at their new base. The British occupation force didn’t have the amenities many US troops have taken for granted. There were no coffee shops, no wi-fi. They didn’t even have a Pizza Hut.
But while troops fretted over the limited internet access on base, Basrans faced more palpable concerns. Reuters reports that many were not all that happy to see the British go, and are gravely concerned at them being replaced by American troops, which have a reputation in the nation for being heavy-handed and trigger happy.