Global Policy Forum

Ukrainian Troops in Iraq


By Aleksandar Vasovic

Associated Press
December 20, 2005

Ukraine began pulling its remaining 876 troops out of Iraq on Tuesday, the defense ministry said, making it the latest nation to wind down its presence in the U.S.-led coalition. The multinational force has steadily unraveled as the death toll rises and angry publics clamor for troops to leave.

In the months after the March 2003 invasion, the coalition numbered about 300,000 soldiers from 38 countries – 250,000 from the U.S. and 50,000 from other countries. Now the nearly 160,000-member U.S. force in Iraq is supported by just under 24,000 mostly non-combat personnel from 27 countries. Britain has the second-largest contingent with 8,000 in Iraq and 2,000 elsewhere in the Gulf region.

Ukraine initially contributed 1,650 troops to the U.S.-led force in Iraq. The 876 Ukrainian troops still in the country are serving under Polish command in southern and central Iraq. All are due home by Dec. 30, with the first batch of 120 due to arrive at a military base in western Ukraine later on Tuesday, Defense Ministry spokesman Viktor Vasyuk said. "We have started it today and this is final," Vasyuk said.

The government began withdrawing the troops in March, and President Viktor Yushchenko had pledged they would be out by the year's end. The Western-leaning Ukrainian leader, who was elected in December last year, made a pullout from Iraq one of his campaign promises.

Eighteen Ukrainian soldiers died and 32 others were wounded in Iraq. Ukraine initially strongly opposed the invasion of Iraq but later agreed to contribute troops to the U.S.-led coalition, becoming one of the largest contributors. The move was mainly seen as an effort by then-President Leonid Kuchma to repair relations with Washington, frayed by alleged sales of Ukrainian radar systems to Saddam Hussein's regime in violation of U.N. sanctions.

Other nations planning pullouts include Bulgaria, which is expected to withdraw its remaining 380 troops before the year's end. The Netherlands has already withdrawn most of its 1,400 troops in Iraq this year. South Korea, the second-largest coalition partner after Britain, is expected to withdraw about 1,000 of its 3,200 troops in the first half of 2006. Italy and Poland were also considering withdrawals. The United States is picking up the $3 million cost of Ukraine's withdrawal.

More Information on Iraq
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