Coalition of the willing: beginning of the end

From SourceWatch
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The beginning of the end of the coalition of the willing commenced in March 2004 with what Jim Lobe called the "Spanish blowback". [1]

Lobe then wrote that whether or not al Qaeda was behind recent bombings in Madrid, "or whether the perpetrators were part of the 'next wave,' both the bombings and their electoral impact - the defeat of one of Bush's few western allies in the war in Iraq - constitute serious blows to the president and his anti-terror strategy, according to analysts here." [2]

On March 21, 2005, New York Times News Service syndicated columnist Derrick Jackson wrote about "The coalition of the wilting. More and more countries are starting to abandon America as Iraq war allies." [emphasis added]. [3]

"The coalition of the willing is losing its will," Jackson writes, and "Italy has announced it will withdraw its 3,000 troops from Iraq by fall. Netherlands, Poland and Ukraine also are in the process of pulling out or preparing to pull out an additional 4,750 troops.

"When Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, says, 'We have to have an exit strategy,' he is not kidding. With the departure of those nations, the coalition will be down to 24 countries. That is a massive cut from the days when the administration boasted the window dressing of 38 fighting countries and nearly 50 total allies (even as the United States accounted for 85 percent of the troops)."

Troops Who Have Left or Will Be Leaving Iraq

Countries which had troops in or supported operations in Iraq at one point but have pulled out since (as of March 15, 2005):


Countries planning to withdraw from Iraq (as of March 15, 2005):

  • The Netherlands - March 2005. However, it is apparent that this will entail a lateral redeployment to Afghanistan. Source: Radio Nederlands, March 10, 2005. There were several programs pertaining to the pullout and the parliamentary discussion that ensued. Of interest: some parliamentarians sought to obtain information on the metric used by the government to determine the relative success of the military mission. Was it the number of insurgents caught, number killed, or the number of days without incidents, or the mileage of new sewers and water pipes in the areas where they were stationed. The government refused to answer! By any of the suggested metrics the Dutch military mission failed. Now, parliamentarians seek to have the Dutch government define a mission metric whereby to evaluate the relative success/failure of the mission. If this move passes in the parliament it could potentially block the deployment to Afghanistan.
  • Italy - September 2005. More info: "Berlusconi's Iraq pullout aimed at voters, not U.S.", Reuters, March 16, 2005. It states: "… it reveals that Berlusconi is under pressure on the home front ahead of regional elections next month and that he needs to bring the troops home before 2006 general elections". The question now is whether Italian troops will reappear in a NATO guise or in Afghanistand (a lateral redeployment).


Countries which have reduced or are planning to reduce their troop commitment (as of February 22, 2007):

  • Ukraine - reduced by 200 during Fall 2004 rotation.
  • Moldova - reduced contingent to 12 around mid-2004.
  • Norway - reduced from ~150 to 10 late-June 2004, early July 2004.
  • Bulgaria - reduced by 50, December 2004.
  • Italy - remaining 60-70 troops to leave in next week (November 27, 2006). [8]
  • Poland - remaining 900 troops to leave by end of 2007 [9]; reduced 700, February 2005. [10][11]
  • UK - February 22, 2007, announced "plan to withdraw 2,100 of 7,100 troops by summer's end and to redeploy the remainder away from combat toward more training of Iraqi troops and patrolling the Iranian border", which "mirrors bipartisan Senate proposals for U.S. forces that are spelled out in two stalled nonbinding resolutions, including one co-sponsored" by John Warner (R-Va.). [12]
  • UK - November 27, 2006, announced "thousands" of remaining 7,000 troops will leave during next year (at height of conflict, 46,000 troops). [13]
  • UK - April 5, 2005, BBC announced that troop levels would be halved from their current 9,000 by the end of the year. One day before the election, troop levels are reduced! What was not clarified on the BBC, but was stated on CNN, is the fact that the British troops will be redeployed to Afghanistan! Nothing like a lateral redeployment before an election.
  • UK - The Scotsman reported April 4, 2005, that (1) "Military sources say 5,500 troops will be pulled out of Iraq within the next 12 months, reducing the British presence there by almost two thirds"; (2) "Britain is preparing to spearhead a new offensive in Afghanistan next year, sending 5,000 troops into the country to lead the hunt for Osama bin Laden and tackle the country’s opium trade"; and (3) "Military commanders in Iraq believe the campaign there has 'turned the corner' and the country’s own security forces are now able to take on a greater burden of the struggle against the insurgency that has gripped Iraq since the United States-led invasion two years ago." [14]
  • South Korea: "In a blow to the Bush administration, South Korean defense officials say they are seeking to reduce their troop contribution in Iraq — the second-largest among U.S. coalition partners — by nearly one-third next year," Associated Press military writer Robert Burns reported November 20, 2005.

Countries planning or rumored to be planning to increase troop contingent to Iraq (as of March 15, 2005):

  • Romania - rumor, 100+ in support of UNAMI.
  • Albania - increase by 50 April 2005.
  • Thailand - increase by 200(?). [NB: this is a likely mistake by the GlobalSecurity source. NYT Mar. 19, 2005 has the Thais reducing their contingent.]


  • Fiji – increase of two guard units; also "There are now 224 Fijian troops serving in Iraq, and an estimated 1,000 more are serving with private security firms holding contracts for the United States government in both Iraq and Kuwait." [15]

Countries which never sent troops, but were listed as part of the "Coalition of the Willing" against their wishes.

  • Singapore – Although listed as one of the contingents in a recent New York Times article, it has issued an official denial. There is a Singaporean ship in the Gulf, but its role is undefined – just like all the other "coalition" navy ships in the Gulf which aren't even allowed to board ships or perform any useful function. (Comment derives from the commander of a Dutch navy ship who burst into an angry tirade when asked about the function of his warship in the Gulf – Source: Radio Netherlands, Feb. 2004.).

Countries which have sent "advisors", provide technical expertise, but are not listed in the "Coalition of the Willing"

  • Israel – Israel has provided technical support (advisors), interrogators, and weapon systems. However, strenuous efforts are made to deny its participation. NB: The main beneficiary of the US-Iraq war is not sending any troops to Iraq; currently "our aircraft carrier in the Middle East" (as president Johnson referred to Israel) just provides the cheerleading.
  • NATO has an estimated 100 troops in Iraq [New York Times, op. cit., Mar. 19, 2005]. This doesn't count the "advisors" that are training or will train Iraqi military/police in Jordan. Most of this contingent is made up of German military; politically Germany couldn't afford to be seen aiding the US-Iraq war effort, and opted to support a NATO advisory role. This information was made public by Schroeder during president Bush's visit to Germany. (If history is any guide, the Vietnam war indicated that there was a slippery slope for "advisors" to quickly become entangled in the actual fighting.)

Countries Removing or Reducing Troop levels


  • Bulgaria, which had troops serving under Poland, announced December 27, 2005, that all of its troops had been withdrawn from Iraq. "In Bulgaria, Defence Minister Veselin Bliznakov said that his country had completed its own military pull out from Iraq. ... Bulgaria began withdrawing its troops from the city of Diwaniya shortly after Iraq’s parliamentary elections, transferring its military responsibilities to Iraqi forces. ... Bliznakov has said that Bulgaria will 'most likely' continue its military involvement in Iraq next year by contributing a 120-strong non-combat unit tasked with guarding the Ashraf refugee camp." [16]


  • Ian Fisher, "Italy Planning to Start Pullout of Iraq Troops", New York Times, March 16, 2005. "Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Tuesday that he aimed to begin withdrawing Italy's 3,000 troops from Iraq by September, in a signal that the domestic cost of loyalty to the United States over the war was growing too high. Mr. Berlusconi, one of President Bush's few close allies in Europe, framed his words carefully, saying in brief comments on a talk show here that the timing of the withdrawal depended on the strength of the Iraqi government. Italy has the fourth largest contingent of foreign troops in Iraq, its soldiers acting largely as peacekeepers near the southern city of Nasiriya."
  • "Italy hastens troop withdrawal," The Daily Telegraph, August 13, 2005: "Italy, a month ahead of schedule, has started reducing its presence in Iraq by drawing down the first 130 forces in a planned 300-troop withdrawal, a Rome-based military source said today. ... the decision to bring forward the September start date of the partial troop reduction was [said to be] logistical and financial – and not political."


  • "Norway rejects US plea to stay in Iraq," Reuters, April 24, 2004: "NATO-member Norway, which did not support the US-led war in Iraq last year, sent a company of about 180 troops to help stabilise the south of Iraq after the overthrow of President Saddam Hussein. ... US Secretary of State Colin Powell today expressed hopes Oslo would reconsider its plan to pull out in June, but Foreign Minister Jan Petersen told NRK television 'we must follow our original plan, of a commitment until the summer'."



  • The entire contingent was to begin leaving in stages until mid-October 2005. On March 22, 2005, the Ukranian president signed an order signed for complete removal by November 2005. [17]
  • The Ukraine, which had troops serving under Poland, announced December 27, 2005, that all of its troops had been withdrawn from Iraq. "Ukraine’s defence ministry said that its last troops had left Iraq, fulfilling a long-planned withdrawal pledged by President Viktor Yushchenko. ... A column of eight armoured personnel carriers and 44 soldiers had left the country and arrived in Kuwait, the statement said. Ukraine had kept 867 soldiers in Iraq after partial pull outs earlier this year. By Friday, all are due back in Ukraine, where the deployment has been unpopular. ... About 50 Ukrainian military instructors will stay on to train Iraqi forces. ... Ukraine opposed the invasion of Iraq but later contributed 1,650 troops to the US-led coalition, becoming one of the largest non-NATO participants. Eighteen Ukrainian soldiers have been killed and another 32 wounded." [18]

Troops Staying in Iraq


  • "Australian targets," (Australia), April 20, 2004: "The chief of Australia's defence force says he is disturbed by a warning Australian troops and civilians in Iraq are being specifically targeted for kidnappings. ... However, Australian Prime Minister John Howard says the threat will not change his decision to keep Australian troops there, for as long as they are needed."
  • Tom Allard and Cynthia Banham, "PM's vow: another year in Iraq," Sydney Morning Herald, April 24, 2004.
  • "Staying the course," Road to Surfdom, April 24, 2004: "Australia has 850 personnel in Iraq, many in a non-military capacity (in fact, only 250 of them are troops)."



  • Although Poland started withdrawing troops in January 2005, and planned to be completed by end of 2005, Poland's two-month-old government announced December 27, 2005, that it "plans to keep soldiers in Iraq next year, countering the previous cabinet's pledge to pull out of the U.S.-led operation by this week. ... Poland plans to reduce its contingent to 900 soldiers in March from 1,400 now and then cut the number of soldiers stationed there 'gradually' until a decision is made to withdraw them completely." [19][20]


  • "Thailand could withdraw troops from Iraq," (Australia), April 20, 2004: "Thailand says it will withdraw its medical and engineering troops from Iraq if they are attacked. ... Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is facing growing public demands to withdraw the troops sent last year to do humanitarian work in the southern city of Kerbala. ... The Thai senate has begun debate on a resolution calling for the troops to come home. ... The soldiers have been confined to their Kerbala camp since a wave of violence erupted a few weeks ago."
  • George Gedda, "Powell Urges Allies to Keep Troops in Iraq," AP, April 20, 2004: "Among those Powell spoke with was Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai. Thai officials have raised concerns about the security situation in southern Iraq and its possible impact on their mission, ... Thailand's Senate voted 68-50 on Tuesday to keep the country's 443 non-combat troops in Iraq. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said the safety of the Thai soldiers there has not yet been compromised."

SourceWatch Resources

External links

  • "Non-US Forces in Iraq," Global Security (last updated March 15, 2005).
  • Pew Global Attitudes Survey conducted February 2004, showed that "In every surveyed country except the US, more people believe that the Iraq War hurt the war against terrorism than believe it helped. And a solid majority in every country except Britain and the US thinks that Bush and Blair lied about Iraqi WMD." [21]
  • New York Times, Tally of the Coalition Troop Levels (last updated March 19, 2005). This table leaves out the second largest military contingent that is still growing at present: the "contractors" or mercenaries. Furthermore, these numbers also ignore the troops or supporting personnel stationed around the Gulf or in Jordan. It also ignores additional personnel required around the world to support the occupation of Iraq – and it is not a trivial number ( attempts to measure the latter).

Articles & Commentary



  • Paul Richter, "Bush Urges Resolve on Iraq. After Spain's promise to withdraw its forces, the president calls on other wavering coalition countries to keep their troops in place," Los Angeles Times, March 17, 2004: "As the White House downplayed suggestions that its coalition was beginning to fray, Bush lobbied the Dutch prime minister on the issue but won no commitment that 1,300 troops from the Netherlands would remain in Iraq beyond June. At the same time, Honduran officials said Tuesday that they would pull their 370 troops out of Iraq during the summer, and diplomats speculated that El Salvador and Guatemala might follow suit."
  • Robert Burns, "Some in Bush's 'coalition of the willing' are suddenly losing their will,", Associated Press (Boston Globe), March 19, 2004: "First Spain said it was getting out, then Poland threatened to leave early, and on Friday the South Korean Ministry of Defense announced that it will not send its troops to the area of Iraq that U.S. commanders had requested, although it said it would position them elsewhere in Iraq. ... The coalition may not be crumbling, but neither is it gaining the political traction that the Pentagon had hoped for as it tackles the difficult task of finding fresh forces for the Iraq mission in 2005 and beyond."
  • Ewen MacAskill, "Coalition partners get cold feet," The Age (Australia), April 10, 2004: "The Shiite uprising in Iraq is exposing the fragility of the US-led coalition and putting a strain on the smaller partners. While the 110,000-strong US force and the 8700-strong British force are geared for combat, many of the other countries that joined the coalition expected to be assisting in peacekeeping and reconstruction duties. ... To the dismay of US central command, Japanese and South Korean forces have retreated to their compounds after coming under fire, while Ukrainian and Kazakh forces have been driven out of the town of Kut by Shiite fighters. The US is considering redeploying 25,000 expected reinforcements from its sector around Baghdad to the south to bolster the coalition forces. In a bid to deal with the deepening chaos, the Pentagon has halted the rotation of 25,000 soldiers due to go home after a year in the war zone. ... Hundreds more British troops flew out to Iraq on Thursday, but without the support of either the UN or NATO, the US has been unable to call on countries such as France, Germany, India and Pakistan for troops. Instead it has had to rely on a ragtag coalition of about 40 countries as diverse as El Salvador and Mongolia. Between them they contribute 24,000 troops in non-combat roles, primarily engineering."
  • "Powell urges coalition to stay," CNN, April 20, 2004.
  • "US scrambles to bolster Iraq coalition," World News (Australia), April 21, 2004: "US officials played down the first cracks in the Iraq coalition, but [Secretary of State] Colin L. Powell said he was calling the foreign ministers or heads of government of every other country in the 34-member coalition to gauge their commitment."
  • Bill Gertz, "Allies expected to stay on 'sidelines'," Washington Times, April 21, 2004: "Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz yesterday told a Senate committee that he doesn't expect more allies to put troops on the ground in Iraq as long as fighting continues, even if the United Nations is given a greater role."
  • Paul Krugman, "The Wastrel Son," New York Times Op-Ed, May 18, 2004: "One by one, our erstwhile allies are disowning us; they don't want an unstable, anti-Western Iraq any more than we do, but they have concluded that President Bush is incorrigible. Spain has washed its hands of our problems, Italy is edging toward the door, and Britain will join the rush for the exit soon enough, with or without Tony Blair."