Published: June 20 2006 03:00
The shrinking US "coalition of the willing" in Iraq has come to resemble more a coalition of the reluctant, as allies weigh up the costs of continued involvement in an unpopular war against the benefits of backing President George W. Bush for the rest of his second term.
Japan is expected to become the latest coalition member to announce a schedule for its withdrawal in a public statement today. Italy's new foreign minister, Massimo D'Alema, met Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state, last week to discuss the Italian pullout by the end of the year, meaning in effect an end to operations by September.
Spain withdrew its 1,300 soldiers from Iraq in 2004 after a change of government. The Netherlands, Ukraine, Nicaragua, the Philippines and Honduras have also pulled out. Only several thousand foreign troops remain alongside some 130,000 US soldiers.
The UK yesterday confirmed that Iraqi security forces would take over responsibility for security in the southern Muthana province, where Japanese forces were based. British and Australian troops - who provided security for the Japanese as they carried out reconstruction projects - will be redeployed....continue