Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Coalition Of The Unwilling Grows

From The L.A. Times December 28

Poland Adds to Coalition Troop Cuts
The U.S. ally says it will pull out 40% of its force. The news comes as Bulgaria and Ukraine complete their exits, dismaying Washington.
By Paul Richter
Times Staff Writer

December 28, 2005

WASHINGTON — The U.S.-led international military coalition in Iraq shrank further Tuesday after Bulgaria and Ukraine completed troop withdrawals and Poland announced it was reducing its contingent 40% while switching to a noncombat role.

Responding to appeals by U.S. officials, the Polish government reversed an earlier plan to remove all of its troops by the end of this year. But officials of the East European nation said the 900 remaining soldiers of its previous 1,500-strong force would focus almost exclusively on training Iraqis as they wind down their mission over the next year.

Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz said in Warsaw that the government would like to complete the drawdown of its forces "not in an abrupt way, but gradually."

In a previously announced departure, Ukraine removed a final 876 troops. Bulgaria withdrew 380.

America's partners in the "coalition of the willing," as the Bush administration had dubbed it, have dwindled from a peak of 38 nations and 50,000 troops in mid-2003 to 27 countries and about 22,000 troops, according to a recent State Department tally. Most of the remaining countries have announced that they will end their participation in 2006.

Because only the 8,000-member British force plays a substantial combat role, the disappearance of the international contingent would not be a major military setback for the United States. But the departures represent a political setback for the administration, because foreign troops help lend international legitimacy to the effort to build a new Iraq.

Read the entire article here.

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