As U.S. steps it up, others scale back
Britain is preparing to announce a withdrawal of about 2,600 soldiers.
VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- The Italians have left, and the Slovaks are about to. Britons want to start getting out, and so do Danes and South Koreans.
President Bush's plan to send 21,500 more troops into Iraq has not inspired America's coalition partners to follow suit. Washington's top war partners -- London and Seoul -- are looking to draw down their forces, and they are not alone.
U.S. forces in Iraq, which now number 132,000 and would swell to 153,500 under Bush's strategy, are supported by 15,857 mostly noncombat troops from 25 nations.
In the months after the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the multinational force peaked at about 300,000 soldiers from 38 countries -- 250,000 from the United States, about 40,000 from Britain, and the rest ranging from 2,000 Australians to 70 Albanians.
American forces have always shouldered most of the burden and suffered most of the casualties in Iraq. The worst violence has raged in Baghdad, the provinces of Diyala and Anbar and other areas where the U.S. is confronting sectarian violence and a Sunni insurgency.
Some say there is little point in boosting forces in the largely Shiite south, where most non-U.S. coalition troops are concentrated. Yet as more countries draw down or pull out, it could create a security vacuum if radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr stirs up trouble there.
Italy, once the third-largest partner with 3,000 troops in southern Iraq, brought the last of its soldiers home last month.
Now Britain, America's chief ally, hopes to cut its 7,000-member force in the southern city of Basra by several thousand in the first half of the year. Prime Minister Tony Blair is preparing to announce a withdrawal of about 2,600 soldiers, the Financial Times reported Friday.
Fact check: South Korea, the current No. 3 contributor, plans to halve its 2,300-member contingent in the northern city of Irbil by April, and is under pressure from parliament to devise a plan for a complete withdrawal by year's end.
And Japan has not "re-upped" yet, though news reports Friday said the Japanese government was considering extending a special law that authorizes the deployment of its 600-member humanitarian mission for another year.
Japan's military involvement has been unpopular with the public. Some say it violates the nation's pacifist constitution and makes Japan a terrorist target.
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