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Countries Carefully Weighing Troop Withdrawal after the Iraqi General Elections

Countries Carefully Weighing Troop Withdrawal after the Iraqi General Elections

Posted December. 10, 2004 22:25,   


There was a time when a total of 35 countries had their troops in Iraq after the Iraq war started in March 2003. Yet, more and more countries are now busy withdrawing or reducing their troops.

As of December 10, the number of countries with troops in Iraq has been reduced to 28, excluding the U.S.

Seven countries withdrew their troops this year, and three other countries are planning to do so by May of next year. The main reason is the ever-worsening security situation in Iraq.

Domino Effect of Withdrawal and Reduction of Troops-

As of February 2004, a total of 35 nations had dispatched troops to Iraq at the request of the U.S. However, currently there are 158,900 troops from 28 countries stationed in Iraq. Excluding U.S. troops, the number of troops stands at a mere 3,900.

Starting with troop withdrawal by Nicaragua in February, seven countries have pulled their troops entirely out of Iraq including Spain (early April), the Dominican Republic (early May), Honduras (late May), the Philippines (July), Thailand (late August), and New Zealand (late September). Spain pulled their troops out as their government changed, mainly due to the shock caused by the tragic Madrid bombing. Other countries decided to withdraw troops because domestic public opinion became increasingly hostile toward the dispatch of troops, as there is little sign of improvement in the Iraqi security situation.

In addition, Hungary is planning to pull out troops by late December. Poland and the Netherlands are scheduled to do so by January and March of next year, respectively.

An increasing number of countries are planning to reduce their troop size, if not complete withdrawal.

Four countries, Ukraine (200 troops), Moldova (12 troops), Norway (150 troops) and Bulgaria (50 troops), have already reduced their troop size. Poland has decided to cut some of their troops next year.

It is highly likely that some of the countries which still have their troops on Iraqi soil will announce troop withdrawal or reduction if the Iraqi general elections scheduled for January 30, 2005 are successfully carried out.

Meanwhile, there are countries planning to dispatch or increase their troops in Iraq. Armenia and Fiji announced their decision to send troops. Georgia, Romania, and Albania have all promised to send additional troops. However, the countries are not likely to deliver the promise anytime soon, as they attached a condition that their troops should be under the flag of the United Nations.

The Japanese Public is against Prolonged Troops Dispatch-

After the Japanese government decided to prolong the stay of Self-Defense Forces (SDF) by one year on December 9, the Asahi newspaper strongly blamed the Japanese government in an editorial it ran the next day.

The paper strongly accused the government’s decision, saying, “More than 60 percent of the public is against the prolonged troop deployment. The cause of the Iraq war has been denied as many countries are pulling out or reducing their troops.”

The leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, Katsuya Okada, has said that he would urge the Japanese again to pull out the SDF from Iraq in the plenary session of parliament next year.

As the SDF is not allowed to engage in battle, according to the Japanese constitution, the Dutch troops have undertaken patrol operations. The problem is that the Dutch troops will leave Iraq in March of next year. It is expected that argument for troop pullout in Japan would gain steam again after March, especially if Japanese casualties occur by attacks from Iraqi insurgents.

Ho-Gab Lee Hun-Joo Cho gdt@donga.com hanscho@donga.com