Forget Poland

With an announcement from Warsaw, the Poles officially join the exodus from Iraq.

Published April 12, 2005 3:51PM (EDT)

In the first 2004 presidential debate, just after John Kerry laid into him for failing to build a broad coalition before invading Iraq, George W. Bush snapped back with what passed for a quick rejoinder: "Well, actually," the president said, "he forgot Poland." The lame come-back fed into the general storyline from the first debate -- Bush was outclassed, unprepared and embarrassed -- and it served as the basis for one of the more amusing one-joke Web sites in recent memory.

It's a safe bet Bush won't be using the same line again: Today in Warsaw, Poland's defense minister confirmed that Poland will withdraw all of its troops from Iraq by the end of 2005. Poland currently has about 1,700 troops in Iraq, most of whom are involved in a multi-nation security force that operates south of Baghdad. Polish Defense Minister Jerzy Szmajdzinski said the pull-out is a response to improving security conditions in Iraq as well as the limitations on what Poland can afford to fund. But there's plainly a political component to the withdrawal, too: As the BBC reports, Poland's government is trailing in the opinion polls, and its involvement in the Iraq war is one of the reasons.

While Donald Rumsfeld insisted in Baghdad today that the United States has no timetable for withdrawing its 150,000 troops from Iraq, Poland isn't the only coalition country to decide that it's time to step away. As the BBC notes, Italy wants its 3,000 troops out as soon as possible; the Netherlands has already begun to withdraw its 800 troops; the last of Ukraine's 1,600 troops are expected to leave Iraq by October; and Bulgaria has said it wants its 500 troops to be gone sometime this year.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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George W. Bush Iraq John F. Kerry D-mass. Middle East