Japan to Withdraw Its Troops From Iraq


By Bruce Wallace

Los Angeles Times
June 20, 2006

Japan's government will withdraw its troops from Iraq, ending a mission that broke postwar taboos by sending its troops into foreign combat zones for the first time since 1945. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told executives of his ruling party that the roughly 600 Japanese soldiers stationed in the southern Iraqi city of Samawah would come home over the next two months, according to Japanese media reports. "We've finished this chapter," Koizumi reportedly told the officials.

The mission has been controversial in Japan, where polls show a majority of the public opposes the war. Koizumi had to ensure that the deployment conformed to Japan's pacifist constitution, which prohibits the country from using force to resolve international disputes. Tokyo had portrayed the mission as strictly humanitarian, with troops focused on improving water supplies and rebuilding hospitals and schools. Security was provided by allies to avoid situations in which Japanese soldiers might have to fire their weapons or risk injury or death.

The Iraqi government, noting the relative calm in the Samawah region, announced this week that it would be the first place where Iraqi forces would assume security duties from foreign troops.

The Japanese mission was more important politically than militarily. The small deployment gave Washington the comfort of having another ally present in Iraq, while allowing Tokyo to establish the precedent of sending troops into a hostile environment. Japanese critics say their government used the deployment as a means of stretching its constitutional limits on sending soldiers abroad.

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