01 December 2005

Coalition Less Willing

The Coalition of the Willing in Iraq is shrinking.

Bulgaria and Ukraine will begin withdrawing their combined 1,250 troops by mid-December. If Australia, Britain, Italy, Japan, Poland and South Korea reduce or recall their personnel, more than half of the non-American forces in Iraq could be gone by next summer. . . . the nearly 160,000-member U.S. force in Iraq dwarfs the second-largest contingent — Britain's 8,000 in Iraq and 2,000 elsewhere in the Gulf region . . . In the months after the March 2003 invasion, the multinational force numbered about 300,000 soldiers from 38 countries. That figure is now just under 24,000 mostly non-combat personnel from 27 countries. . . . South Korea, the second-largest coalition partner after Britain, is expected to withdraw about 1,000 of its 3,200 troops in the first half of 2006. The National Assembly is likely to vote on the matter this month.

Italy's military reportedly is preparing to give parliament a timetable for a proposed withdrawal of its 2,800 troops. Premier Silvio Berlusconi's government has said it plans to withdraw forces in groups of 300, but in accordance with the Iraqi government and coalition allies.

Poland's former leftist government, which lost Sept. 25 elections, had planned to withdraw its 1,400 troops in January. The new defense minister, Radek Sikorski, visits Washington this weekend for talks on Poland's coalition plans, and the new government is expected to decide by mid-December whether to extend its mission beyond Dec. 31.

Wars are won by your list of allies as much as any other factor. This war was fought with a far narrower coalition than the First Gulf War, and support from our allies has dwindled, rather than grown stronger.

Of course, public support for the war in the U.S. and Britian is already a distinct minority, a draft to produce more troops is politically out of the question, and the adminsitration is unlikely to even get approval to authorize greater deployment of national guard and reserve troops, whom the President has largerly exhausted his authority to call to duty without upgrading the conflict to a World War II class event. All of this puts more and more table on the forces left holding the bag as everyone else at the table as left without paying their share of the tab. The U.S. Army and Marines are stuck as the principal military force left in Iraq. This doesn't bode well for efforts to downsize their presence in Iraq.

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