Many of the governments that sent troops originally did so over the objections of their populations. In South Korea and Poland for example, the war was always unpopular. Some of the leading countries also criticized the invasion later on. Former chief of the British General Staff, General Sir Mike Jackson, claimed in his autobiography that Prime Minister Tony Blair only joined the war to maintain the special relationship with the United States. He also said former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld failed to plan for the post-war situation, and was therefore most responsible for the chaos that ensued. The ex-head of Australia’s military Admiral Chris Barrie told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in November 2008 that he never thought his country should’ve gone into Iraq. In his interview he said that he never saw any evidence that Iraq posed a threat. Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd added that all of the reasons his predecessor John Howard gave for invading Iraq were wrong, and that intelligence was manipulated to make the case for war. The leaders of Bulgaria and Poland promised to pull their troops out when they were running for office. As with Blair, many nations decided to join the Coalition to maintain or build close ties to America. Most of the central and eastern European countries also wanted NATO membership, something many of them gained after their deployments. No matter what the motivation, almost all of them are now quickly withdrawing before the end of the year.
In 2008 eighteen countries have either begun or finished pulling out their troops. Georgia was first in August. It sent most of its troops home to fight the Russians. Its forces had been in the country since August 2003 working checkpoints in Wasit, and training Iraqi troops. Originally it had 850 soldiers in Iraq, but that was increased to 2,000 in 2007. The last 50 of its troops left in October. It lost 5 soldiers. It is hoping for NATO membership in the future.
Kazakhstan, Armenia, and Poland left in October as well. Kazakhstan had 35 soldiers clearing mines in Wasit since 2003. Armenia sent in 45 soldiers in January 2005. In total 360 of their troops had served in Iraq. They worked under the Poles in Qadisiyah, in support and medical units.
Poland was in control of Multinational Division Center-South which included Armenian, Ukrainian, Latvian, Romanian and Moldavian troops, while the British commanded Multinational Division South-East originally after the invasion, but eventually just operated in Basra with a unit in Baghdad
Poland played a large role in Iraq, participating in the original invasion. It had up to 2,600 soldiers in the country, but by October 2008 there were only 100 left. It lost 21, with 70 wounded. A year earlier, the new prime minister promised to pull out his country’s troops because the war was unpopular. Poland was put in charge of a multi-national division in south-central Iraq in September 2003 based out of Camp Echo in Diwaniyah, Qadisiyah province. Besides the Armenians, the Poles were also commanding the Ukrainian, Latvian, Romanian and Moldavian contingents.
Latvia withdrew on November 10. It originally sent forces in May 2003. It had 1,150 soldiers that worked in Kut in Wasit, Hillah in Babil, Kirkuk in Tamim, and Diwaniyah in Qadisiyah. It conducted military operations with the Poles, but those stopped in June 2007. Afterwards it concentrated on intelligence and management. It also received NATO membership in 2004.
That same month Macedonia pulled out its 79 soldiers. It had a Special Forces unit deployed, operating out of a base in Taji, Baghdad province. Its soldiers had been in the country since 2003. Macedonia was asked to join NATO in 2008, but was blocked by Greece.
On December 2, the U.S. had a ceremony for South Korea’s withdrawal. It had one of the largest contingents in Iraq at 3,600. 670 were sent to Nasiriyah in Dhi Qar in 2003, but those were withdrawn in 2004. Otherwise, the South Koreans were concentrated in Irbil in Kurdistan where they worked on reconstruction and a medical clinic. The government wanted them out in 2007 because of the unpopularity of the war, but delayed that until 2008 because of a request by the United States.
Azerbaijan began withdrawing on December 3. In November the country’s parliament voted to pull out its troops. It had 150 in Iraq since 2003, mostly working as guards at a dam in Salahaddin, and at Camp Ripper in Anbar.
Tonga began withdrawing its 45 soldiers on December 4. They worked at Camp Victory in Baghdad. The Pacific nation announced its pull out in late October 2008. It sent its first troops into Iraq in 2004, and more than 200 rotated through the country since then.
That same day the Czech Republic pulled out its soldiers. Originally it had 300 troops in Basra. It ran a hospital for British troops and trained the Iraqi Border Guard. Prague decided to drawdown its troops in October 2008. It had 100 soldiers in the country in early 2008, but by December there were only 20 left.
Ukraine also withdrew in early December. It had a large role in the Polish led Multi-National division. It fought the Mahdi Army, trained Iraqi police, and helped organize the Sons of Iraq. In the process it lost 18 soldiers, and 32 were injured. They were the third largest contingent of foreign troops in Iraq from 2003-2005 with around 1,700 soldiers. In 2006 it drew down to just 40 and went from Kut to Diwaniyah in Qadisiyah. In 2008 it requested NATO membership.
On December 12 Japan ended its mission. From 2004-2006 it had 600 ground troops on a humanitarian mission in Samawa, Muthanna. This was the first time the country had sent soldiers overseas since World War II, and caused a huge amount of controversy back in Japan. In 2006 it switched to flying supplies into Iraq from Kuwait. There it has 210 troops who will be out by March 2009.
Bulgaria had its troops out on December 17. It originally sent in 500 in August 2003. By 2008 there were 140 watching prisoners at Camp Cropper in Baghdad. Before that they were stationed at Camp Ashraf in Diyala guarding the Iranian exile group the People’s Mujahadeen of Iran. For its effort it was admitted to NATO in 2004 and given European Union membership in 2007. In total, it suffered 13 killed and 81 wounded. The country’s prime minister ran on withdrawing troops in his 2005 election campaign.
Bosnia-Herzegovina had 86 troops in Iraq. It was supposed to leave in November 2008, but was delayed until the beginning of December. It is hoping for future NATO membeship.
Denmark pulled out most of its troops in December 2007. 290 soldiers rotated through the country after they were deployed in 2005 upon a request by NATO. Most of its soldiers were in a helicopter unit that supported the British in Basra. In August 2008 it sent 49 men to Baghdad to do guard duty at Camp Victory, while 36 soldiers that were removing unexploded ordinance in Qadisiyah were withdrawn. Afterwards, its soldiers were used to protect Danish diplomats and train Iraqis. It had 1 wounded in its three years in Iraq.
Albania had 218 soldiers in Iraq. They were deployed in 2003 and worked in Mosul protecting an airport. In September 2008 it sent in an additional 120 soldiers who also worked in Baghdad. In April 2008 it received provisional NATO membership.
At one time Lithuania had 130 soldiers in Iraq, but by the time it withdrew on December 18 there were only five left. It first sent in troops in April 2003, and had 750 serve there. It was supposed to have withdrawn in the summer of 2008, but in June the government extended its soldiers’ tours for two more months. Their main task was guarding an American Provincial Reconstruction Team in Wasit. It received NATO membership in 2004.
Moldova withdrew on December 26. It worked removing land mines. Moldova was suppose to stay in Iraq after the U.N. mandate expired, but decided not to noting the stability in the country. It originally sent in 45 soldiers in September 2003 who worked with the Polish Multi-National Division. By December it only had 20 soldiers still in the country.
El Salvador was also supposed to stay in Iraq into 2009, but its president announced that they would be out by December 31. It deployed troops in 2003 and suffered 5 killed and 20 wounded, out of the 280 who served there. Its forces distributed humanitarian aid and worked on small reconstruction projects.
Slovenia might be the last country to withdraw. It only has two soldiers who train Iraqis. Their mission was supposed to end in February 2009, but the government wants its forces out by the end of the U.N. mandate. It originally sent in four trainers in 2006 that served in Baghdad. It received NATO membership in 2004.
And Then There Were Five
After the Coalition is over five countries will remain. The United States negotiated a Status of Forces Agreement recently that will let it to keep combat troops in the country until 2011. It asked Baghdad to allow four other countries, England, Australia, Estonia, and Romania to stay past the deadline to help with training and advising. Today, December 31, Iraq authorized the extension for England and Australia, while one is still pending for Estonia and Romania. Both deals will allow those nations to keep troops in Iraq until July 2009. In total, they will have around 6,000 soldiers deployed with England having the largest share as 4,100.
England has always been the main partner to the U.S. in the Coalition. It has the second most troops in Iraq, and took part in the initial invasion. Afterwards they were given control of Basra, Maysan, Dhi Qar and Muthanna, but that was eventually reduced to just Basra. Most of its troops are now in Basra airport, but it also has a unit working the Iranian border to interdict weapons, and a SAS unit in Baghdad. Their main task is training the Iraqi 14th Army Division and the Iraqi Navy. Prime Minister Gordon Brown visited Iraq in December 2008 and said that 400 troops would remain after July 2009 as trainers. He actually wanted to pull out most of the British army in the spring of 2008, but after Baghdad launched Operation Knights Charge in Basra he was asked to keep British forces there to help stabilize the situation.
The agreement just signed with Iraq to maintain troops there was held hostage by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Maliki believes England turned over Basra to Moqtada al-Sadr and the militias. As a result he held up the agreement to the last minute to chastise them. In August 2008 it was revealed that when the British withdrew from central Basra to the airport they cut a deal with the Mahdi Army to facilitate their move. The English believed that they were the main cause of attacks in the city, and thought that once they pulled out the violence would subside. Instead the militias took over.
Australia, Estonia, and Romania will also maintain troop into 2009. Australia already withdrew most of its combat troops in June 2008. That consisted of 550 soldiers at an air base in Dhi Qar. Now it has 800 left in Iraq. They have trained 33,000 Iraqis and also work on logistics. Those staying will provide diplomatic protection, supply troops, and conduct air reconnaissance. Estonia’s parliament voted in December 2008 to keep its 40 soldiers in Iraq into 2009. It joined NATO in 2004. Romania’s president announced that it would have troops in Iraq until 2011. It now has 498 there, and received NATO membership in 2004 as well. They work on intelligence, training, and security.
Totals for Withdrawn Troops:
- Iceland: 2 soldiers, Deployed May 2003, Unknown withdrawal date
- Nicaragua: 230 soldiers, Deployed September 2003, Withdrew February 2004
- Spain: 1,300 soldiers, Deployed April 2003, Withdrew April 2004
- Dominican Republic: 302 soldiers, Deployed August 2003, Withdrew May 2004
- Honduras: 368 soldiers, Deployed August 2003, Withdrew May 2004
- Philippines: 51 soldiers, Deployed August 2003, Withdrew July 2004
- Thailand: 423 soldiers, Deployed August 2003, Withdrew August 2004
- New Zealand: 61 soldiers, Deployed September 2003, Withdrew September 2004
- Netherlands: 1,345 soldiers, Deployed July 2003, Withdrew March 2005
- Hungary: 300 soldiers, Deployed August 2003, Withdrew March 2005
- Portugal: 128 soldiers, Deployed November 2003, Withdrew March 2005
- Norway: 150 soldiers, Deployed July 2003, Withdrew August 2006
- Italy: 3,200 soldiers at peak, Deployed July 2003, Withdrew November 2006
- Lithuania: 120 soldiers at peak, Deployed June 2003, Withdrew August 2007
- Slovakia: 110 soldiers at peak, Deployed August 2003, Withdrew December 2007
- Georgia: 2,000 soldiers at peak, Deployed August 2003, Withdrew October 2008
- Mongolia: 180 soldiers at peak, Deployed August 2003, Withdrew September 2008
- Poland: 200 soldiers in 2003 invasion, 2,500 at peak, Withdrew October 2008
- Kazakhstan: 29 soldiers, Deployed September 2003, Withdrew October 2008
- Armenia: 46 soldiers, Deployed January 2005, Withdrew October 2008
- Latvia: 136 soldiers at peak, Deployed May 2003, Withdrew November 2008
- Bosnia and Herzegovina: 85 soldiers at peak, Deployed June 2005, Withdrew November 2008
- Macedonia: 77 soldiers at peak, Deployed July 2003, Withdrew November 2008
- Albania: 240 soldiers at peak, Deployed April 2003, Withdrew December 2008
- Denmar: 545 soldiers at peak, Deployed April 2003, Withdrew December 2008
- Bulgaria: 485 soldiers at peak, Deployed May 2003, Withdrew December 2008
- South Korea: 3,600 at peak, Deployed May 2003, Withdrew December 2008
- Azerbaijan: 250 soldiers at peak, Deployed August 2003, Withdrew December 2008
- Ukraine: 1,650 soldiers at peak, Deployed August 2003, Withdrew December 2008
- Moldova: 24 soldiers at peak, Deployed September 2003, Withdrew December 2008
- Czech Republic: 300 soldiers at pea, Deployed December 2003, Withdrew December 2008
- Japan: 600 soldiers, Deployed January 2004, Withdrew December 2008
- Tonga: 55 soldiers, Deployed July 2004, Withdrew December 2008
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