What Became of the Coalition of the Willing?
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
Support for the U.S. war effort is also dwindling overseas. One by one the nations that once made up the president's Coalition of the Willing have pulled out.
NPR's national security correspondent Jackie Northam is with us now to talk about this.
JACKIE NORTHAM: Hi, Michele.
NORRIS: So what's happened to that so-called Coalition of the Willing?
NORTHAM: Well, initially, there were about 40 countries that agreed to provide troops for the war effort in Iraq. But as the fighting drags on into its fifth year, that number has dwindled to almost half. It could now be called the Coalition of the Remaining.
In reality, it's called the Multi-National Force-Iraq. Even though the U.S. accounts for more than 90 percent of the troop's strength, still it was helpful as the administration was trying to build a coalition to go into Iraq, that dozens of small countries agreed to the mission, because it led to multilateral veneer to what was essentially a U.S. campaign.
NORRIS: Now, many of those smaller countries pulled out within the first year or two.
NORTHAM: That's right. Yes, countries such as Tonga, New Zealand, Nicaragua, and Honduras. These are nations that provided one to maybe three hundred troops, and they pulled out pretty quick. Larger nations such as Spain, Italy and Ukraine withdrew after they became - after they began losing too many soldiers and the war became a political liability.
Most of the coalition partners are in non-combat zones, where their troops serve as engineers and health care workers and mine-clearers, among other things. But the - once these areas became so dangerous then it caused these countries to pull their troops out much faster than they probably expected.
NORRIS: Now, just to keep track of all these, the four major allies that went in with the original invasion - the United Kingdom, Australia, Poland, Denmark - are still there.
NORTHAM: They are still there, yes. But their numbers have dropped. Britain, which had the largest contingent after the U.S. - it provided more than 45,000 troops in the early days of the war - they're down to just over 5,000, fifty- five hundred troops now. And it's expected the U.K. will withdraw them in the next few months. Australia is about half its original size of around 2,000 soldiers, but shows no signs of leaving Iraq yet. Poland's fighting forces are down to about a third of the original size, but their mandate is due to expire at the beginning of next year. And Denmark announced that it would leave this year as well, so, too, with the Czech Republic and El Salvador.
NORRIS: Now, looking ahead, positive signs as far as coalition troops?
NORTHAM: Well, one positive sign is that the former Soviet Republic of Georgia recently increased the size of its force by several hundred soldiers, and General David Petraeus mentioned this several times during his testimony this week. Other nations still are in Iraq, but have made deep troop cuts such as South Korea, Bulgaria and Latvia. But they're still there. And there are some U.N. troops and NATO-sponsored troops helping out as well. So there are few positive signs, but, for the most part, people are leaving pretty quick.
NORRIS: That was NPR national security correspondent Jackie Northam.
NORTHAM: Thank you.
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