Iraq coalition numbers dwindling
By Tom Raum
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON – President Bush’s “coalition of the willing,” long seen by much of the world as a shell for a largely U.S. operation in Iraq, is quickly becoming a coalition of the unwilling.
Even as Bush sends more American forces to Baghdad, longtime war ally Tony Blair is pulling out British troops. Denmark is leaving. Lithuania says it may withdraw its tiny 53-troop contingent.
Bush’s alliance is breaking up as opposition firms against the U.S. troop buildup – among the American and Iraqi people, in Congress and among Iraq’s neighbors and some former U.S. allies.
“There is no military solution to the sectarian and insurgent conflict in Iraq,” said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said the U.S. should follow the British prime minister’s lead and start reducing forces.
The British announcement reverberated on the U.S. presidential campaign trail as well.
“I hope that since the president seems unwilling to listen to the results of the November election or to the new Democratic majority in Congress, that he would at least listen to someone who he has claimed has been his strongest ally in this effort,” Democratic candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said.
Blair has seen his popularity at home plummet since standing with Bush on the 2003 invasion. On Wednesday, Blair told Parliament that Britain would withdraw 1,600 troops in the coming months, almost a quarter of its 7,100 troops – and hoped to withdraw more by late summer.
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