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Nations Back Off Sending Troops to Iraq
Published on Tuesday, October 28, 2003 by the USA Today
Nations Back Off Sending Troops to Iraq
by Tom Squitieri
 

WASHINGTON — Bangladesh and Portugal, two nations the Pentagon has pressed to send combat troops to Iraq, have decided against contributing to the U.S.-led force there. A third nation that once promised to send troops, South Korea, says it has not made up its mind and has delayed a decision pending further study.


There are 132,000 U.S. and 10,000 British troops in Iraq. They are supported by 14,000 troops from 29 nations. The Pentagon hopes to create a new international force to replace members of the Army's 101st Airborne and other U.S. troops in February. But no nation has stepped forward to lead that force, nor have any nations been publicly identified as promising troops.

Turkey has agreed to send 10,000 troops but is waiting to hear from the Pentagon when and where they should go. U.S. officials have delayed discussing specifics with Turkey because of opposition to the Turkish deployment from Kurds who live in northern Iraq. Turkish officials say their offer will stand for a year but that none of its forces will be deployed unless the Pentagon gets public assurances of support from the Kurds.

The decisions by Bangladesh, Portugal and South Korea, coupled with the snag in the Turkish deployment, add to frustration in the Pentagon over the difficulty of getting foreign troops to replace some of the weary U.S. forces.

Bangladesh and South Korea were considering sending 5,000 troops each.

Public opinion in all three countries was overwhelmingly opposed to the U.S.-led invasion and has remained high against the occupation.

The setbacks come just weeks after India and Pakistan turned down Pentagon requests to send large contingents to Iraq, despite heavy pressure from U.S. officials. Bangladesh, Pakistan and Turkey had symbolic importance: They would be the first large nations with substantial Muslim populations to send troops to Iraq.

Rising violence in Iraq, especially attacks on non-U.S. targets such as one Monday on the headquarters of the International Red Cross and the Aug. 19 bombing of United Nations headquarters, makes sending troops to Iraq difficult, a senior Bangladesh diplomat says.

The official says political and public opposition to a deployment is very high, and many politicians question why Muslim troops from Bangladesh should go to a Muslim nation like Iraq without being asked by the host government. The opposition is so strong that Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia will not even ask Parliament to vote on a motion for deployment.

Another senior diplomat from Bangladesh says the recently passed U.N. resolution authorizing a force for Iraq did not quiet opposition in Bangladesh.

Many of the country's leaders have said they want all Islamic nations to reach a consensus on sending troops to Iraq before any country sends them.

Portugal had told the Pentagon it would consider sending a limited number of combat forces once the U.N. resolution authorizing a force was approved. Portugal already has 120 police officers in Iraq.

Now, however, the growing violence has convinced Portuguese officials not to offer combat troops. A senior Portuguese diplomat says police were a higher priority in discussions with the Pentagon.

South Korean diplomats said Monday that their country will send a survey team to Iraq in November to decide whether they will send combat forces. It is the second survey team to Iraq sent by South Korea. The diplomats said the government would make a decision on the deployment after the team returns.

Previously, some South Korean officials said they might condition their sending troops to Iraq on how quickly the Pentagon outlines a planned shift of U.S. troops away from South Korea's border with North Korea. The Pentagon is studying whether to move the bulk of its 38,000 troops in South Korea to the southern tip of the peninsula.

There are 132,000 U.S. and 10,000 British troops in Iraq. They are supported by 14,000 troops from 29 nations. The Pentagon hopes to create a new international force to replace members of the Army's 101st Airborne and other U.S. troops in February. But no nation has stepped forward to lead that force, nor have any nations been publicly identified as promising troops.

"We're still in discussion with other countries, which are also considering sending troops as well as other types of support," Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters on Oct. 21.

Contributing: Barbara Slavin

© Copyright 2003 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

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