The coalition of the not-so-willing-anymore

As Iraqis go to the polls, one more foreign government announces that some of its troops are headed home.

By Tim Grieve
Published December 15, 2005 6:06PM (EST)

As Iraqis go to the polls, Italians are voting with their feet. According to the Associated Press, Italy's defense minister said today that the country will withdraw an additional 300 soldiers from Iraq next month.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi initially sent about 3,000 Italian troops to help in the reconstruction of Iraq. Under pressure from the Italian electorate, which is even less keen on the war than American voters are, Berlusconi's administration withdrew about 300 troops in September. Italians go the polls themselves in April, and Berlusconi's primary opponent promises a speedy withdrawal of Italian troops if he's elected.

Italy isn't the only source of shrinkage in the "coalition of the willing." As UPI notes, there used to be 38 countries in the coalition. Now it's down to 27 -- and it's about to get smaller than that. Ukraine and Bulgaria will be out by the end of January, South Korea is likely to be gone sometime in the first half of 2006, Australia is talking about leaving, and Poland has all but threatened to pull out entirely unless the Bush administration coughs up some military aid as a quid pro quo.

The withdrawals may be more symbolic than anything else, at least as far as U.S. soldiers are concerned. The United States currently has about 160,000 troops in Iraq; the troop counts from other coalition countries number in the three- or four-digit range.

Tim Grieve

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

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