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Politics

Coalition partners steadily shrinking their Iraq forces

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published January 13, 2007


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VIENNA - President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more troops into Iraq has not inspired America's coalition partners to follow suit. Washington's top war partners - London and Seoul - are looking to draw down their forces, and they are not alone.

U.S. forces in Iraq, which number 132,000 and would swell to 153,500 under Bush's strategy, are supported by 15,857 mostly noncombat troops from 25 nations.

In the months after the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the multinational force peaked at about 300,000 soldiers from 38 countries - 250,000 from the United States, about 40,000 from Britain, and the rest ranging from 2,000 Australians to 70 Albanians.

Italy, once the third-largest partner with 3,000 troops in southern Iraq, brought the last of its soldiers home last month. Now Britain, America's chief ally, hopes to cut its 7,000-member force in the southern city of Basra by several thousand in the first half of the year.

"The South Koreans, the Japanese, others have re-upped their forces again to continue operating in Iraq," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Thursday. "And there is a NATO training mission for officers in Iraq. And so, I think you'll continue to see that kind of international support."

But South Korea, the current No. 3 contributor, plans to halve its 2,300-member contingent in the northern city of Irbil by April, and is under pressure from Parliament to withdraw by year's end.

Japan has not "re-upped" yet, though news reports Friday said the Japanese government was considering extending a special law that authorizes the deployment of its 600-member humanitarian mission for another year.

Poland has extended the mission of its 900 troops through the end of 2007.

But most of the other coalition members that have extended their commitments are small, mostly symbolic contributors. They include the Czech Republic, which has 100 military police; Armenia, with 46 peacekeepers; and 40 Estonian infantry.

[Last modified January 13, 2007, 00:31:05]


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