6 The Middle easT June 2008 Crumbling coalitions
George W. Bush’s ‘coalitions of the willing’ in Iraq and Afghanistan are crumbling as casualties and global opposition to his war on terror escalates. By ed blanche
The US-led alliance in Iraq that George W. Bush once called, with sweeping hyperbole, “the coalition of the willing”, is falling apart at a rapid rate. In Afghanistan, another coalition is starting to crumble amid growing criticism by the US administration of its allies and the Pentagon, even as it struggles to withdraw troops from Iraq, is having to send in some 3,000 Marines to prop up the forces fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The problem is partly due to spiralling public anti-war sentiment among America’s allies and growing distaste with US policy, fuelled by rising casualty figures.
left: afghan refugees arriving from pakistan have to go through registration with the unhCr repatriation programme. above: us marines on patrol in the afghan provinces
Dire warnings of murder and mayhem from Osama bin Laden to those countries that still back Bush’s war could accelerate further defections. Menzies Campbell, leader of Britain’s Liberal Democratic Party, which has long fulminated against the war and Britain’s military deployment in particular, echoed the sentiments of many. “The hard truth is that Britain’s involvement in Iraq has been a catastrophe,” he declared. “We have paid dearly and widely in resources and reputation. Isn’t it time to acknowledge that the presence of British troops in Iraq no longer serves any realistic military or political purpose?” It’s a measure of the strength of the growing opposition to providing troops to help the US that four of the key leaders of the original “coalition of the willing” back in 2003 have left office. John Howard of Australia (Bush once described him as “a man of steel”), Jose Maria Aznar of Spain and Junichiro Koizumi of Japan
have all been voted out of office, while the UK’s Labour prime minister Tony Blair (dubbed “Bush’s poodle”) has been replaced. Poland’s Jaroslaw Kaczynski was another casualty. The conservative prime minister was toppled in elections on 21 October, 2007, and succeeded by Donald Trusk of the centre-right Civic Platform Party. He wants to withdraw all 900 Polish soldiers currently in Iraq by the end of 2008, although some may remain in a training capacity. Poland originally had 2,500 troops in Iraq and headed a multinational division deployed in south-central Iraq. Domestic political issues obviously played a part in the downfall of these leaders – a recent survey in Poland showed 81% of the population opposes military involvement in Iraq. But burn-out because of the war and the close relationships those men had with the Bush administration were pivotal factors in their political demise. Shortly after the US-led invasion in March 2003, 38 countries participated to
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