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Amid all the discussion by the Democratic presidential candidates of how best to withdraw American troops from Iraq, we’ve heard little about a partial troop withdrawal that is currently taking place in Iraq and its highly visible consequences.

In southern Iraq, the British, our closest allies in this Mesopotamian folly, are drawing down troop levels from 30,000 to just 5,000 by the end of this summer. In the process, soldiers are being removed from their posts in the cities to an air base outside Basra, where their main mission will be training Iraqis to assume security responsibilities.

Sound familiar? It’s just the scenario many Americans and some presidential candidates are recommending. But is it working? No. In Basra, as in Baghdad, the police are infiltrated by sectarian militias and either unable or unwilling to maintain order. As the British move out, criminal gangs and Shiite militias are moving in and fighting, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, for territory and power.

The few British troops remaining in the city are hunkered down in Basra Palace, taking fire from all directions, the New York Times reports, while troops at the airport are under regular mortar attack by Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army.

It’s time to acknowledge that the peace cannot be gained militarily and that ultimately the Iraqis themselves are going to have to create it.