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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Backgrounder: The 'Coalition of the Willing'

Council on Foreign Relations

Author: Lionel Beehner, Staff Writer
Updated: February 22, 2007


The size and scope of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq has dwindled since the height of the invasion in 2003. Britain, the largest member of the coalition after the United States, recently announced plans to withdraw 1,600 troops from Iraq in the months ahead and to shift their combat role to support and training. U.S. and British officials say this partial withdrawal is a positive sign because security is improving in parts of the south, where coalition forces are primarily stationed, and where Iraqi forces are increasingly “stepping up.” The shrinking of the coalition coincides with a surge of U.S. forces deployed to Anbar and Baghdad provinces but may complicate efforts to eventually redeploy from Iraq.

How significantly has the coalition shrunk?

Shortly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, thirty-eight countries supplied around 25,000 forces. Those numbers have dwindled to twenty-five countries and roughly 15,000 troops, the vast majority of which are stationed in the relatively peaceful south and engage primarily in training, support, and reconstruction missions. The most significant reduction in coalition strength came in September 2005, when Italy began pulling out all of its 3,000 troops. Ukraine and Bulgaria, two of Washington’s staunchest partners in the war, quickly followed suit and withdrew the bulk of their forces the following year. Over the next few months, Britain plans to reduce its troop presence from 7,000 to roughly 5,500 forces. By August, Denmark plans to pull out its 460 soldiers. And Lithuania is also considering withdrawing its fifty-three troops.

What are the biggest partners in the coalition?

Britain fields the largest force (7,100 troops) behind the United States. After Britain, the biggest forces belong to South Korea (2,300), Poland (900), Australia and Georgia (800 each), and Romania (600).

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on GlobalSecurity.org with specific permission from the cfr.org. Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to cfr.org.

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