British ground forces finished withdrawing from Iraq in 2009, leaving a small naval contingent [GALLO/GETTY]

The last of Britain's military forces have withdrawn from Iraq after more than eight years of fighting militants and training security forces.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the British Royal Navy on Sunday handed over its mission of patrolling waters off the southern Iraqi port city of Umm Qasr on the Persian Gulf.

"The Iraqi Navy are ready, so now is the time for the UK to dress back and let them complete the mission they were created for," said Brigadier Max Marriner, the British commander in Iraq.

Al-Dabbagh said 80 British sailors had been helping to train Iraq's Navy. He said that role now will be filled by American sailors through the end of the year.

British forces were part of the initial 2003 invasion of Iraq that ousted Saddam Hussein, and the last remaining UK combat troops withdrew in July 2009.

The British Ministry of Defence says 179 British troops have died in Iraq since 2003. When Prime Minister Tony Blair sided with US President George W. Bush and dedicated Britain to the Iraq war, his unpopular decision sparked some of the largest demonstrations in a generation.

Source: Agencies